What is Tough Mudder

Tough Mudder is a long distance race with obstacles along the way.  It’s run on rough terrain.  You run through muddy water, carry logs, climb walls, and deal with crowded herds of participants.  Overall it’s designed as an endurance event that is more challenging and more fun than running a marathon or doing a triathlon.  It incorporates strength qualities both of the body and mind.  You can learn more about the events at the Tough Mudder Website.

Mistakes People Make When Training for Tough Mudder

Since Tough Mudder is a rough terrain event with lots of awkward objects and obstacles, you have to have functional strength and endurance.  Unfortunately because it is an endurance event, many people make the mistake of spending too much time on the treadmill or just running period.  While running from one obstacle to the next is part of the race, it’s important to note that there is less than a half mile between obstacles on average.  When training for any sport or event, the closer you get to the event the more closely it needs to mimic the demands of the event as much as possible.  So running on a flat surface won’t transfer as well to running on dirt paths and through muddy water.  Using machines and small handled dumbbells isn’t going to transfer well to carrying awkward objects and pulling on thick ropes.  Running 10-15 miles straight isn’t going to transfer over to half mile sprints between strength demanding obstacles.


How to Train for Tough Mudder – 5 Tips

 1 – Fix Your Weaknesses – No amount of endurance matters if you get hurt before the race is over

Tough Mudder requires lots of ankle, and knee stability.  If you are not doing drills to improve coordination and strength in the ankles, you race could end prematurely.  Having improper strength balance in your legs will not only make your running suffer, but it will make you perform very poorly on the obstacles.  The biggest concern is the running after the events.  If your knees and the muscles that support them have not been properly trained, you risk losing biomechanics after each strength test, which can lead to sprains and more serious injuries.  These will also improve your skills on the obstacles that require balance and movement on inclines and declines.  I will go into training techniques in detail in part II but a teaser on the topic:  Full Squats improve 17/23 points of knee stability.

2 – Improve your Strength Endurance – It’s not a marathon, it’s an event of intervals

Steady state/ long distance training should be kept to a minimum.  Not only are the benefits from this training minimal for this event.  This type of training has more negative impacts on your health and joints.  A half of a mile is 800 meters or about 2 laps around a regulation track.  A good place to start would be to do intervals of 800 meter sprints.  You can start with a long recovery time between sprints and slowly decrease that rest time as a good way to prepare your body for the type of energy demand of the Tough Mudder race.  This type of training is also better for your health and is great for fat burning as well.

 3 – Work on Lactic Power and Lactic Capacity Resistance Training.

This basically means you need to make your body able to deal with more lactic acid production.  Lactic acid is produced when your muscles are working a rate beyond what your oxygen levels can provide sufficient energy.  When lactic acid levels build up in the muscle thats when you get that burning sensation.  Lactic acid levels can diminish strength and performance fast, so training your body to better deal with lactic acid and still be able to recruit strength will give you a significant improvement in performance come race time.

4 – Train Pure Upper Body Strength and Functional strength

You don’t run the race on your arms so endurance is not as important as strength for the upper body.  Your upper body needs to have the strength to push pull and carry large, awkward, and heavy objects.  This means heavy lifting with functional exercises like thick dumbbells and pull-ups.  And yes that means for the girls too.  Ladies nothing is more impressive than watching a girl do chin ups, not to mention you will surely be showing up the boys at the Tough Mudder.

5 – Do Modified Strongman Training

You are going to be climbing up and over walls and hills, not roads and stairs.  You won’t be picking up barbells and dumbbells.  Flipping tires, pushing trucks, pulling sleds, and carrying heavy stuff will have you prepared for almost anything the Tough Mudder can throw at you.  If you don’t think training through the elements with a bunch of awkward heavy objects works, apparently you need to watch Rocky IV again…

The last thing I will say is that Tough Mudder is designed to mentally challenge you as well as physically challenge you.  So if you are not pushing yourself outside your comfort zone on a regular basis with your training then you are not doing yourself any favors.  No perfectly designed program can make up for lack of will and effort.  That’s why it’s called “Tough” Mudder.