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How to Train for Tough Mudder

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Tough Mudder is a race that has transformed obstacle races in the UK and US.

Thousands of people have taken part from elite athletes to sofa warming pizza gobblers!! Why is it so popular? My view is that it is a race but not a race, you work in a team and help each other through the obstacles, you don’t leave anyone behind, and instead you volunteer to assist. This makes it as much about character building as being athletically gifted, something everyone can work on. For people looking to take part in a Tough Mudder, here are a few things you need to consider:

You don’t need to be a marathon runner
You don’t need super human strength
You don’t need to have the skills to climb a flat wall
You don’t need the lactate threshold of a MMA fighter
You do need a big pair of Cahoonas as:
You will be covered in mud from head to toe
You will most likely get an electric shock
You may drown
You may get burnt
Plus much more.

The million-dollar question is now how to prepare for a race such as Tough Mudder?

If you are a member of the standard lab rat gym then you may be in for a little shock, as you will have to use muscles in a way that machines have not helped you with in the past. However, if you are training at the many non-commercial, functional gyms that are around, that use everything and anything to get you strong and fit, then you should be halfway there in your battle for survival.

That being said, you still want to prepare for the toughest race on the planet, so my standard requirements would be:

Should be able to do 10 chin ups (female 3-5)
Should be able to do 40 press ups (female 5-10)
Should be able to squat, deadlift and bench one times bodyweight (female 1/2 )
Should be able to run 6-8 miles at a comfortable pace
Should be able to carry a sandbag half your bodyweight for 10 minutes
Should be able to sprint up a steep 200m hill
Should be able to crawl across the floor for 100metres
Should be able to do 50 burpees non stop
Should be able to jump rope for 5 mins

These are just some simple goals to aim for when training for Tough Mudder. If you can do all of the above then you are pretty well set to take part in the race. Obviously if you want to take part and set a good time then you will need to step up your training to meet the goals you aim for. Depending on how serious you want to take the race you could then look into peaking for the event, so in the early stages of training you would focus on aerobic capacity and relative strength. You would then move onto more aerobic power and lactate capacity through strength endurance. Throughout the weeks you would drop the volume and up the intensity hoping to be ready for the big day!

If you just want to get out there and have a bit of fun, then the following routine will work for you:

Monday – Strength + Aerobic Capacity
A1 Squat
A2 Military Press
B2 Chin Ups
C1 KB Swings
C2 Recline Rows
D1 Abs
Followed by:
Aerobic Capacity – Bodyweight circuit
100 Skips
20m Bear crawl
20 Squat
10 Press Ups
10 Star Jumps
40 Low Amp Abs
10 Burpees
Repeat for 15-25mins
Tuesday – Road Running 3-5 miles steady pace
Wednesday – Rest
Thursday – Strength + Aerobic Capacity
A1 Deadlift
A2 Chin Ups
B1 Walking Lunges
B2 Dips
C1 Recline Rows
C2 ALT KB Swings
D1 Abs
Aerobic Capacity – Same as above or the use of prowlers/sled/ropes/sledgehammer
Friday – Rest
Saturday – Road Running Interval work such as tempos
Sunday – Rest

For those that have a Tough Mudder coming up, one of our members, Ben Kirkup, is a veteran and has competed in the World’s Toughest Mudder, a 24hr invitation only event. Here he shares his thoughts on what it takes to be a Tough Mudder:

Firstly you need to sign up. I see far too many people saying ‘I’d love to do Tough Mudder but I can’t find anyone to do it with. 

You don’t need a team to start Tough Mudder, you’ll find one on course, that’s part of the beauty of Tough Mudder. No one wants to see you struggle so a helping hand is always there when you need it. Run on your own and you’ll make friends, meet people and form bonds.

I did Kettering last year alone and met two guys, Simon and Chris on the Sunday. We all have a season pass this year and meet up at all the events. Once you have signed up I’d say get as much information about the event as you can. Have a look at the obstacles on the Tough Mudder website so you know what you’re in for and train accordingly. You’re going to get wet, cold, muddy and tired so get comfortable with being uncomfortable, jump in the shower fully clothed before going for a run, sit in a freezing cold bath when you get back, that kind of thing.

You don’t need any special equipment to do Tough Mudder, shorts, t-shirt, gloves and trainers will be enough to get you through. 

Obviously if your event is in October you might want to wear something to keep you warmer like a windproof top and some leggings. If you find this is something you love or you do want to splash out on some new gear then I’d recommend some trail running shoes. Nothing is going to benefit you more than shoes that will give you traction and I’ve never found anything better than Inov8 Mudclaws to give you that. Lastly, remember that Tough Mudder is a great time, it’s meant to be fun, so smile!!

You do not have to be an Olympic athlete to do Tough Mudder.

You watch the videos and think ‘oh my god, I can’t do that’, well you know what, you can. Anyone can do it. You just need the will and the courage. Having ‘the fear’ is no bad thing, it’ll get you off the sofa and out training, and it’ll push you on until event day. I get asked all the time about how you should train for Tough Mudder?

Minimum standard you should be able to comfortably run 8-9 miles, you’ll get help on any obstacle but no-one will help you run, that’s down to you. Oh and you need to ready your body for jumping from height and landing safely. I’m not talking about huge heights just a few feet but it will make a difference. I’ve seen far too many people limping in the first few miles with twisted ankles and knees, ready your body for those impacts.  If you have the cardio you can start looking at specific obstacles and identify where you’re going to struggle. My weakness is the Funky Monkey so I work on my grip and upper body; I focused on pull-ups to help me at the Hero Walls. I know of a woman that couldn’t swim before she signed up but faced that fear and learned, so she could do Walk the Plank. Tough Mudder is designed to be hard and put you out of your comfort zone, it’s meant to be difficult which makes it all the more rewarding when you conquer it.

The fitter you are and the harder you’ve trained the easier you’ll find it but you don’t need to be breaking world records before you get to the start line.

I don’t really do any specific training until Worlds Toughest Mudder where I’ll change quite a bit. I’ll up my mileage on runs and I’ll wear a backpack full of bricks too. I’ll enter a number of 24hr races throughout the year to get used to going for that long and I’ll put in some overnight hikes in freezing conditions to ready myself for the cold.

My gym sessions will become more intense and I’ll clean up my diet cutting out booze for at least 6 weeks before the day. I’ll use races close to the event as prep. At the last Tough Mudder I ran we did two laps on the Saturday and another on the Sunday. At the Tough Mudder in October I’ll be looking to complete three on the Saturday and two on Sunday, I might even try to stay awake through the night in-between. World’s is as much a state of mind as anything, fitness will only get you part of the way. I’m entered with The Lords of Coventry again this year and we’re determined to go one better than we did last year where we finished 2nd. The competition is going to be fierce this year though so we need to be in peak condition, I’ve no doubt will help me get there.


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