While it may be tempting to just turn up on the day and throw yourself into it, a Tough Mudder demands a dedicated and specific training schedule to get you through the course without injury or a mental breakdown. This type of event has quickly become a popular race for athletes around the world, with the UK, US and Canada seeing more events than ever in 2016. Although it might be true that anyone with moderately good levels of fitness can make it around the course (which often isn’t timed), if you want to look remotely good and beat you friends you will need a structured workout routine in the weeks and months leading up to the event. But where do you start with an event as gruelling as the Tough Mudder? Here are five workouts for beginners that will help prepare your body for the course ahead.
Varied Terrain Running
When preparing for a Tough Mudder running should take up approximately 70% of your training time. Although famous for its obstacles, the course is stretched out over 10-12 miles and a good level of endurance is vital if you wish to complete the course in good time. Not only that, but your Tough Mudder course will be rather more gruelling than your typical Sunday afternoon jog around the park—think thick, sloppy mud fields, wading through ice cold water, and uneven, rocky trails.
When it comes around, you don’t want the day of your Tough Mudder to be the first time you’ve ran over varied difficult terrain as you can be certain this will only result in injury and pain. Ensure you tackle varied terrain and surfaces in your training including rocky forest trails and beach runs, at first slowly, allowing the muscles in your feet to get used to the changes underfoot.
Too many people believe that being able to run a simple 10-mile course around a concrete path in the park is sufficient training for the running aspect of a Tough Mudder. In truth, however, a Tough Mudder will force your body to perform at several intensities as you take on the different obstacles of the course in between your runs. Incorporating interval runs into your training is one of the best ways to ensure your body will be prepared for the different intensities of the race.
Fartlek training has long been an integral part of training for Swedish athletes, and we would recommend regularly alternating the speeds at which you run in preparation for tackling the different paces of the Tough Mudder course. Another good training technique is to introduce strength exercises in between your running route to imitate the obstacles of the Tough Mudder course. Try incorporating a set or two of 20 burpees, diamond push-ups, high knees or squats into your run every half a mile depending on your current strength.
While 70% of your training should be taken up with the running aspect of your Tough Mudder, the other 30% will be devoted to strength and conditioning.
As mentioned above with adapting your running to the difficult terrains of the course, you want to imitate the harsh conditions of the course as much as possible in your training. On the day of your Tough Mudder, you will complete the course soaked in mud and cold water; it is important that you attune your body to how that feels before race day, as if you don’t the conditions can dramatically affect your mental and physical performance on the day.
One way to condition your body for these conditions is to follow in the footsteps of Tough Mudder veteran Andy Thom, who famously pours a bucket of cold water over his body before each training session. This ensures Andy and his body is not fazed by the cold, wet conditions on the day of the race and has seen him successfully completely over a dozen Tough Mudder courses.
Building your core and upper body strength is crucial for tackling the course’s obstacles with any sort of speed or efficiency. The final two training exercises we advise to incorporate into your routine will allow you to build your body strength while remaining quick and light over the ground. Repeat the below routines for as long as possible, ensuring that you increase the number of times you complete the circuit with each training session.
- 20 x Burpees
- 25 x Squats
- 12 x Side plan raises
- 20 x Push-ups
- 100m sprint
- 20 x Push-up/Plank switches
- 10 x Horizontal squat rows
- 30 x Alternating reverse lunges
- 10 x Hand-release push-ups
- 400m run
While your training will be the biggest influencer in how you perform on the day, your choice of sportswear also has the power to greatly impact your Tough Mudder performance. The nature of the course and conditions means you need to stay away from cottons and heavier knits that will stick to your body and cause discomfort and chafing when wet; opt instead for lightweight, microfiber sportswear that will try off quickly when wet and which will also wick moisture away from the skin to keep you dry and comfortable when hot.