Workout of the Month: July

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Workout of the Month

Workout of the Month

How do you train for obstacle course racing? Each month we ask a different runner, coach, or race organiser from across New Zealand or beyond for their workout suggestion.

This month’s workout is presented by Mike McMillan.

Mike McMillan, Primal Movement Trainer

Mike is a certified MovNat trainer holding ‘edu training’ sessions in primal movement as part of the team at Peace and Performance Osteopathy clinic.

“The movement skills required to move through an obstacle course are precisely the movement techniques we teach. Practical, adaptable, complex movements are the core principles of MovNat, and they are the core requirements for success on an obstacle course. Strength and conditioning only get you so far, what you need to really succeed is movement ability to get the most out of your physical preparedness”. – the MovNat system on obstacle course racing

Mike’s also an infrequent blogger on UnzooYou about, as he describes it, “not being a ‘zoo-human’.” He also finds time to be a racer occasionally, “doing some of the Xterra Trail Run series, and the Auckland Tough Mudder later this year”. His other interests involve developing a love of bushcraft fostered by Ian Barnes of Cutting Edge Bushcraft. His last adventure involved living off the land by trapping and eating opossum, while his next will involve “navigating off track and getting ‘lost’ in the bush overnight.”

Mike McMillan in the downhill leg of Riverhead Forest in the Auckland Xterra Trail Series

“I am 50 now but still fit and moving much as I did in my childhood. I haven’t really stopped which is the key.

“I have synthesised all of my athletic background of martial arts, triathlons, duathlons, Ironmans, rowing, marathons & half marathons, off road racing, CrossFit and MovNat into an ‘Unzoo Movement’ approach. What is Unzoo Movement? It is an eclectic blend of concepts that form a philosophy and structure to movement practice within the Unzoo mantra of ‘working with nature’. The key concepts are: natural movement, full spectrum fitness, and seasonal variation.” Read more about Unzoo Movement.

Some past highlights:

  • Ironman (10.58)
  • Marathon PB (2.55)
  • The Kepler Challenge Mountain Run 67km (6.32)
  • 4th place Auckland Tough Guy and Gal Auckland (6km), 2009
  • Male Masters Winner & 2nd overall of Xterra Trail Series Short Course, 2009
  • MovNat Certification in Singapore

So what would the Unzoo approach look like for OCR training?

“Do a little background research on OCR training and three key factors seem to stand out: running, obstacles and strength. Luckily, one of my favourite workouts incorporates all key factors. The ‘Primal Triathlon’ basically involves trail running, parkour and lifting in one session, set in a natural environment. I like the workout because it’s tough, natural and in nature, and an immersive experience!”

The Workout

Do the following in an outdoors, natural location:

Primal Triathlon

  • Trail run – 5km
  • Obstacle circuit – 30 mins. The focus here should be on continuous free moving and interacting with nature. Elements can include crawling, balancing, climbing or jumping natural obstacles.
  • Primal lifting & carrying – 30 mins. Elements can include rock rolling, heavy shouldered lunges, push presses, cleans, deadlifts, rock waist carries, or log shoulder carries.


The trail run can be steady state focusing on efficient running technique, or fartlek style (basically run some sections fast) to increase capacity.

The obstacle circuit can be at a single location and done circuit/interval style, or it can be over a series of locations. This can be done as a continuous loop circuit if you want to increase the endurance aspect further. The focus should be on flow by continuously moving through dense obstacles.

The primal lifting & carrying session can use logs and rocks (of course you can use sandbags or other weights if you have to). The mantra should be “carry long and rep high”.

The goal is not just conditioning, but skill development, fun, and a nourishing movement journey in nature.

I will definitely be doing this as part of my training prep for Tough Mudder later this year!

Workout Example

My personal version of this workout is to:

  • Run about 5k off-road trail at One Tree Hill, incorporating some hill climbs and downhill speed, plus some efficient running technique.
  • Then I get to a spot where a pohutukawa tree creates a natural playground and I do a series of obstacle intervals through it – crawling, rolling, jumping, landing, climbing, and brachiating.
  • Next I run another 500 metres to another location where I have logs & rocks available, to finish with a heavy log shoulder carry over difficult terrain, then a heavy rock waist carry, followed by a mini power session of low rep (say 6) “boulder to shoulder” lifts coupled with fast climbs up a tree and depth drops back down (one for one). Then I finish with high volume reps (say 50) of rock push presses, branch pull ups, shouldered rock lunges and log cleans.

Our ORNZ Editor took a camera along for the Workout of the Month! Watch it below,


Regression: reduce volume and/or intensity. For example:

  • Trail run 1-2km
  • Obstacle circuit 10 minute
  • Primal lifting & carrying 20 minutes

Progression: increase volume and or intensity/complexity. For example:

  • Trail run 1 hr
  • Obstacle circuit 45 minutes
  • Primal lifting & carrying 45 minutes

Your Turn

Now it’s your turn to do the workout of the month. Join the ORNZ community as we get in race shape!

Feel free to share your experience or results in the comments below or on facebook.

Previous Workouts

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