Dan recently participated in the Tough Mudder (the post’s title comes from the “Tough Mudder Creed” printed on his sweatshirt.) Though he wrote a bit about some materials that were useful to him along the way, I thought it would be interesting to do a blog post about how he trained! So without further adieu, here it is:
Tough Mudder CEO, Will Dean, described the TM as one of the most difficult events on the planet, and while it’s a walk in the park compared to something like the Ironman, there is still a level of discipline and training that one must adopt months prior to race day. I would normally consider myself to be in very good shape, but I still upped my regiment in a few ways to further prep myself for the event. And as one of the leaders of my group, I felt that my training was a big success. So here’s a few inside tips as to how to better train for an event such as the Tough Mudder:
Running. The Tough Mudder race was 12 miles long though dozens of steep hill. So in order to prep my lungs and my legs, I looked to running enthusiast publications for some help. I downloaded a guide from Runners World Magazine (http://www.runnersworld.com/rwdcaspdf/HalfMarathon.pdf) outlining a training regiment for a half marathon race. The program prepared you for the 13 mile trek in a nine week schedule and there were variations on the training depending on how much of a runner you were. My days consisted of a 4-8 mile run three days a week, then a 10-12 mile run on Saturdays, cumulating from 20-30 miles a week. I always purposely scheduled my long runs for Saturdays because it usually took me 90-120 minutes to run the distance and I always liked to finish up my run with some healthy ice bath therapy http://www.runaddicts.net/tips-tricks/ice-bath-therapy-speed-up-recovery-and-enhance-performance) afterword to help my muscles- not something I could easily do with my limited time on weekdays.
Muscular strength. Bench press and squats alone won’t do it this time. The majority of the obstacles that required additional strength aren’t stopping to do 50 pushups, they require you to move and lift your body in ways today’s human doesn’t normally operate. The most useful series of exercises used to prepare for the TM are pull-ups and dips, then followed by muscle-ups (http://media.crossfit.com/cf-video/CrossFit_MuscleUps.wmv). By the time race day comes along you should be able to lift yourself onto a ledge above your head or over a wall. Find some playgrounds or sturdy privacy fences in your neighborhood to scale.
Many obstacles require you to crawl under live electric and barbed wires. This isn’t a particularly tough exercise, but when you’re crawling on top of very sharp gravel in shorts and a t-shirt, you better have the core strength to hold your body off the jagged terrain at least a couple inches. In other words, you should be able to do some serious planks and other variations on holding up your weight in the push-up position.
Overall, I’m a big fan of the Crossfit program and their regiment is highly suitable for toughening you up for the race. While you do not need to meet the physical conditions of the athletes on the http://www.Crossfit.com website, you should still be able to manage a full workout without passing out or throwing up before it’s over.
Mental grit. Running 12 miles in freezing cold weather, while soaking wet isn’t easy on the body, but it’s even tougher on the mind. You will need to mentally prepare yourself for what lies ahead and be able to accept poor conditions for longer than you are used to, with the mental understanding that there is no warm blanket waiting for you at the end of this race, only a cold beer and a head band. I did this in several way: sometimes by simply taking a cold shower or reading a book outside in cold weather for as long as I could hold still enough to read the print. Another great way to train is by filling a large bucket with water from a spigot, then dumping it over your head before you go on a run. You’ll then be much more accustomed to running cold and wet. I was fortunate enough to live in Chicago during a chilly fall season before the race in November, so it was to my advantage that I could train myself with the environment. Naturally if you live in Florida and your race is in June, there’s much less to worry about. Training to be able to sustain cold and wet conditions is the most uncomfortable and difficult part of training for the Tough Mudder, but by the time the big day rolls around, you’ll be glad you’re used to being cold and wet. You can consult Navy Seal BUDs training for more info on preparing for cold weather.
It takes a lot to fully train for the Tough Mudder and there’s really no saying to whether or not you’re “ready” when you’ve never done one before. However, the one big difference about the Mudder versus any other race out there is a level of camaraderie you’ll experience throughout the race. People you’ve never seen before in your life are always willing to lend a hand or foot to help you finish. So if despite all your training, you just can’t quite reach the top of “Everest”, there will still always be someone there to help out a fellow Mudder.