Last Updated on January 30, 2022 by Heather Hart, ACSM EP, CSCS
Disclaimer: I always, always post honest, unbiased product reviews. But it should be known from the start that Matt B. Davis, the author of this new “all things OCR” book, Down and Dirty, is someone I consider a friend (bro, pal, take your pick). Further, I will also present an honest, unbiased review EVEN THOUGH I’m still a little bummed that I wrote a chapter for this book, per Matt’s request, that didn’t make it into the book. I think the excuse was the day I sent the chapter to him he and his wife (mostly his wife) were busy giving birth to a new baby, so it somehow got overlooked. I suppose, because the top of my head and right shoulder made it into the book (see photo later on in the post), I will forgive him. (I’m kidding, I’m not really mad.)
Seriously though, Matt and I met a few years back at the 2012 Death Race, and bonded over 3:00 am delirious discussions of topics such as how Matt thought I was a twitter celebrity at the time, and the fact that another volunteer by the name of Andrew was trying to kill Matt by running and burpeeing in circles around him. It was instant friendship. The next year I even bought him a rotisserie chicken. ( That says a lot, I’m a vegetarian. )
At the time, Matt was a novice in the world of obstacle course racing (often referred to as OCR). In fact most of us were, as the sport was just getting ready to really explode onto the racing scene. I have watched from both afar and on race courses as Matt has gone from a “weekend warrior” to an avid athlete and as the man behind Obstacle Racing Media, one of the number one insiders in the world of obstacle course racing. Needless to say, it only seems fitting that he is one of the handful of people that have published a book on obstacle course racing.
Down and Dirty by Matt B. Davis is the self proclaimed “essential training guide for obstacle races and mud runs“. There are two things that stand out about this book, in my opinion:
1) The pictures. Hundreds of pictures, on nearly every other page. Some are even full size. The kicker for me is flipping through and knowing most of the people in all of the photos, I love being a part of such an amazing athletic family!
2) The numerous contributors. While I’m sure Matt could have talked about all of the aspects pointed out in the book on his own, he as instead enlisted numerous OCR athletes and experts to write chapters for him. (As Scott Keneally points out in the foreword, this was pretty brilliant). It is always inspiring, and probably incredibly reassuring for beginners, to hear about the struggles and successes of numerous people as opposed to the experiences of just one. There are chapters from elite athletes in not only OCR but gymnastics and parkour; chapters from college professors, and even one of my all time favorite ladies, a 50lb weight loss success story turned killer athlete, Holly/ Muddy Mommy.
The book covers everything from the history of OCR (entertaining), to the current state of OCR (sadly, an already outdated chapter) to choosing a race, and of course most importantly, how to train for that race. While some books lay out exact workout plans, Down and Dirty instead gives numerous workout and exercise suggestions, allowing the reader to modify as needed based on their fitness level. There are in depth instructions on how to build your own backyard OCR training equipment (why don’t I have my own wall yet?), a chapter regarding nutrition complete with recipes, and even an entire chapter dedicated to team racing.
While I feel that the book would be most beneficial for first timers or newbies looking for overall improvement, there were indeed chapters that even more experienced athletes could learn a thing or two from. My weakness? Grip strength. Believe it or not, there is an entire chapter dedicated to it (thank you Rob Butler!)
Matt’s insider tips and humor bring all of the chapters together to create a great “all you need to know about obstacle course racing” handbook. In conclusion, “Down and Dirty” is a simple read, and that is a compliment, not an insult. This book is totally something I could throw at a newbie and say “here, you should do this!” without the information being overwhelming or intimidating. Quite the contrary, the book would get almost anyone excited to run their first (or fiftieth!) obstacle course race. For those of us pretty much obsessed with all things OCR, the book is an entertaining read and a wonderful addition to your bookshelf.
With a cover price of $22.99, a paperback copy can be yours for only $15.12 currently from Amazon.
Reader input: are you new to the sport of obstacle course racing, or hoping to tackle your first OCR in the near future? If so, what are a few questions you may have, or topics you’d like to learn more about?
Disclaimer: a copy of Down and Dirty was provided to me by Fair Winds Press at no cost to me, however all opinions expressed are my own.
Heather Hart is an ACSM certified Exercise Physiologist, NSCA Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS), UESCA certified Ultrarunning Coach, RRCA certified Running Coach, co-founder of Hart Strength and Endurance Coaching, and creator of this site, Relentless Forward Commotion. She is a mom of two teen boys, and has been running and racing distances of 5K to 100+ miles for over a decade. Heather has been writing and encouraging others to find a love for fitness and movement since 2009.
I’ll have to add this one to my list of OCR books to read. I’m currently reading Spartan Up! and Obstacle Race Training by Margaret Schlatcher!