Our first Tough Mudder was a cold Saturday in July. Apparently, in Scotland this is a regular occurrence. To be fair, it wasn't that cold, but anytime your race begins with a fully clothed ice bath, shit's gonna be frigid the rest of the way. No amount of gym time can prepare you for that but that doesn't mean that you can't prepare yourself for the challenge that awaits.
Whether it's a Mudder, Spartan Race, CMC (Civilian Military Combine), X-Run, Warrior Dash, Viking Race or any other of the dozens that have popped up, preparation is necessary.
Here's where to start:
- Make sure you can run the distance of the race.
This may seem obvious but the biggest surprise we encountered was the difficulty keeping a good pace over the entire race. You get rest periods (if you can call them that) at some of the obstacles, but others are as strenuous as an uphill sprint. And others are simply an uphill sprint. If you are doing a 10km run and can barely finish that without taking a few breaks, then you can't reasonably think you'll finish the race on your feet.
To train for this, mix up distances equal to or greater than the race length with high intensity intervals. For our team of 6m we would take weekly runs together of about 10km with a few stops for hill intervals and 100m sprints. This was prep for a 18km Tough Mudder. For a shorter 5km Warrior Dash or Spartan Race, focus more on the intensity of the runs. For example, run 6-7km but with long intervals like 30 seconds high intensity, 30 seconds low intensity (but not walking) and 1 minute medium intensity.
2. Focus on body weight exercises for a good portion of the strength training.
Aside from the occasional partner or log carry, the only weight you'll have to lug around is your own, so prepare yourself with bodyweight exercises like pull ups, push ups, air squats, lunges and jump squats. For our prep, we would combine our runs with intermittent breaks of body weight exercises to more acclimate the body to that type of stimulus (i.e., run-obstacle-run-obstacle-etc...). For example, on a 10k run stop every kilometer and perform 20 pushups, 30 jump squats, 40 lunges and run again. Anytime you pass a place with a pull-up bar, stop and knock out 10 (helps to bring your own resistance band for help if you can't do pull-ups without help yet).
3. Get down on all fours.
If the last time you crawled was as a baby (or in a drunken stupor), then remind your muscles what its like to move quadruped style with various crawls and walks. One of my favorites is the sled crawl (shown above) but if you don't have a sled at your disposal, military crawls are a close second.
4. Get dirty.
Part of the appeal of these type of runs is their messy nature, so get used to it by adding some to the training. Some websites go as far as recommending fully clothed swims in local lakes and I'm sure everyone has seen this guy start his run with an ice bath. It's probably not necessary but doesn't hurt to at least know what it feels like to swim fully clothed. Can be a scary experience doing it for the first time for some.
Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org to enquire about customized training plans for your upcoming race.