One of the most popular activities that continue to grow among weekend warriors and athletes of all varieties is obstacle mud runs. The names that you will hear are Spartan Race, Warrior Dash, Tough Mudder and Muddy Buddy, all of which are similar. They all require participants to show both strength and endurance to negociate obstalces, which are spread out over the course. Courses range form 3-12 miles to days.. Anaerobic athletes will excel at the obstacles and the aerobic athlete can complete the distance but both may struggle with the opposite. Here are some strategies to maybe help excel at your mud run vs. just surviving.
1. Train as specific to the race
Expected the unexpected! Athletes will never know what kind of obstacle lies around the next turn. There is a good chance that it will be a pushing or pulling activity after a half-mile to a two mile run. So when training for an event, vary the mileage and challenges. For example, run for 1 mile and then stop and perform 20 push-ups, 10 pull-ups, bear crawls (20-40 yards) or 15 burpees, then repeat that sequence for the remainder of your training session. Time your circuits or intervals and remember never sacrafice quality for quantity.
2. Work up to Race Distance
Anyone who has trained for a distance event knows the importance of the progression for the specified distance. A three mile obstacle run is more time efficient to train for where the treacherous 13 mile mudder will take more time. Just like the challenges above but now the distance, the repetitions, difficulty of obstacles or time of your intervals will have to be increased. So now, the distance for running can be about 2 miles followed by rope climbs or farmer carries with a 400 meter (approximately ¼ mile) backpedal.
3. Don’t forget the distance
High-intensity, anaerobic athletes can lack the aerobic base for the distance. Long and slow runs should be incorporated into their training for the “over and over” effort that will be used. The endurance runner needs to add more intervals.
4. Get Dirty
Whether an athlete is covered in mud or running through freezing cold water, these races are known for making athletes uncomfortable. The better the race situation can be duplicated, the better the training. Jump in the pool fully clothed for some activities then climb out of the pool into bear or tiger crawls. Have someone hose you down or throw buckets of dirty/cold water on you while you perform tire flips or push-ups.
Your average athlete cannot just show up and hope to complete these races. Proper training should be performed as well as acclimation to uncontrollable events (i.e. wet clothes, being covered in mud). The proper training with as many variables will also help your mental toughness, which is required for these races. During the recovery, post-training, take an ice cold shower (see how long you can stay under the water).
By: Rocco Ferraiolo PTA, NASM certified, SPARQ certified