Training For Adventure Races Like Tough Mudder

Holy crap!! The Tough Mudder is this Sunday and I'm freaking out! I haven't been training enough honestly and I'm getting a bit nervous about all the mud and crazy hard stunts. Just to give you an idea of how intense this race is look at these photos on the Tough Mudder FB page!

A few months ago Ben and I made a video to show you some of the training we've been doing. Well, he's been doing it. My training has been on and off; weigh-training, Zumba, cycling, yoga, bootcamp, and very little running (oops). I still have not gotten into running since our last post about training. I just find it SO boring. Let's hope I finish the race. It has an average of 80% finish rate. Yikes! 

Below is what Ben does during a workout. He's done the Tough Mudder 3 times so I'm glad he's on my team! 

Tough Mudder Training by Ben 

Warm up:

I like to constantly mix up my warm up.  I've found that motions I don't normally do often will warm me up the fastest.  One of my favorite has been running backwards or sideways but I only do it every so often to keep the body guessing.  The warm up can be any low-impact motion.  Some of my other favorites are jogging in place, body weight squats and jumping jacks.

Pull ups:

Tough Mudder involves a lot of pulling yourself up over things.  Whether you're climbing a wall or hoisting yourself out of a mud pit, you need to be able to pull yourself up.  That's why I believe that pull ups are one of the most important exercises to train for Tough Mudder.  One thing I can't emphasize enough is proper form.  It is way more effective and safe to do only a few pull ups with proper form as opposed as to more with bad form.  You want to start at a dead hang and keep your legs straight.  The idea is to go all the way up and all the way down without "kipping" your legs for momentum.  The full range of motion will hit many more muscles.  Refraining from using any sort of momentum will help prevent injury.  If you're unable to do pull ups your own a couple good exercises are assisted pull ups, or negative-rep-only pull ups where you start with your chin above the bar (from a jump or an assist) and fight your way slowly down.

While pull ups are the most important, some other bodyweight exercises I like to do are dips, push ups, bodyweight squats, lunges and planks.

What do you do for strength training? Have you done an adventure race before? Any tips or advice?

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  1. My brother did a Tough Mudder competition in Vermont this past summer.  It looked gruelling and impressive.

    Best of luck to you!

  2. Hey I spot some gymnastic elements in there! 😉

    Here's my tips and 2 cents, lol:

    A good tip I learned about pull ups is to think about moving your elbows to your waist. This will help activate the proper muscles in the back and use less of your arms (which people tend to do in a pull up.)

    When body-weight squats get too easy you can move on to "Pistol" or Single Leg Squats. You put your arms straight out in front of you and then extend one leg in front, then squat. If you have problems with strength or flexibility with getting your leg out in front of you, you can do it on a chair or ledge (like you had in the video) that way you have room for your leg when you squat.

    For push-ups you want to keep your butt down and you want your elbows back near your ribcage. Most people have bad form with push-ups because they just aren't strong enough in certain areas and put their body in a position where it's easier to do the movement. You can progress through push ups in various ways:

    Against a wall -> On to a table or ledge at waist height -> On your knees -> Regular push ups -> Feet elevated push ups (don't elevate past horizontal) -> Push-ups + weight -> Feet elevated push ups + weight, etc.

    Always always lock your pelvis by tilting it up slightly (like in yoga), keep your butt down, and keep your elbows next to your rib cage. If you can't do that then you are working too hard for the push up progression you're trying to do! Go back down the chain until you can do it with that form then move up from there! I know it may suck but bad form will hamper your strength gains in the future and at some point will cause a chronic injury!

    Negatives are really good and useful tools! Be cautious though – I wouldn't do negatives for a particular movement more than once a week. YMMV based on your body but they are very hard on the joints and the CNS and can wear you out before you even know it!

    Last thing I'll say is about maximal strength vs endurance. One of the reasons people think that body-weight exercises can't build much strength or muscle is because they get stuck on doing one progression in the chain and endlessly knocking out repetitions. A good rule of thumb is 3×5. Once you can do a movement for 3 sets of 5 reps, move on to a harder progression! To keep your endurance use an easier version of the movement for your warm-up, then once a week knock out a set of that movement to failure at the end of the workout. So for instance with a push-up: in your warm up do push ups on your knees, then do your 3×5 work set of regular pushups. Then during one of your workouts in the week, at the end, do a set of push-ups to failure.

    The main thing is that you can't build a lot of muscle endurance and strength at the same time, but if you build strength first you will actually end up increasing endurance because as you get stronger the movements that used to take a lot of strength now take less (relatively speaking) so you're using less effort hence you can do more!

    Hope I didn't ramble on too much! Sunday is going to be crazy!

  3. One more thing I forgot!

    Probably one of the most important things I've learned. Have a meal high in carbohydrates (rice, potatoes, etc) about an hour before workout and then during the workout snack on organic raisins! Just pop a couple in between sets or movements, I usually eat about 1/4 to 1/2 a cup per workout. Also sip lots of water. By keeping a constant stream of simple carbohydrates in your system you are making sure that you are always performing at peak ability. In addition carbohydrate is protein sparing meaning your body will use less protein to generate energy leaving more for repair! Also, always eat within an hour after an intense workout! This will minimize muscle damage and maximize recovery!

  4. Lookin good! You will do great this weekend! My friend did the tough mudder and had a blast.

    I have a dip station which is also used for reverse pull-ups. I can't do a regular pull up at all! You are awesome!

    Good luck 🙂

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