Muddy Runs and Tough Mudder Workouts

The Ultimate Guide To Muddy Runs and Obstacle Courses

Have you got tailored workouts and advice for people wanting to participate in muddy races and Tough Mudders? If not then you might want to start thinking about it, as this area of health and fitness is becoming a multi billion dollar industry and you’re missing out!

Don’t let other personal trainers take the glory. Learn what advice is needed for anyone wanting to complete one of these events. Obstacle course events have become an extremely popular activity in recent years. If you’re a personal trainer, isn’t it about time you developed an ultimate training programme for Tough Mudders?

Looks pretty cool right?

Tough Mudder is probably the most famous but search for ‘muddy runs’ or ‘obstacle races’ and you’ll get hundreds of results. You can pretty much find them in every city (particularly in North America, Europe and Australia). They’ve taken the fitness industry by storm and there is no evidence they are leaving any time soon. From deeply competitive semi-professional athletes to those struggling with weight loss, the events and courses are designed for everyone. It’s a battle of mind over matter!

These muddy races take an enormous amount of physical and mental strength, and it’s something that you should definitely be thinking about if you enjoy a challenge.

Each one will vary but generally, in order to be able to complete one of these events, you must be able to jog 12 miles and be comfortable pulling your own body-weight.

The good news is Tough Mudder themselves have made some amazing videos to help illustrate what exercises would be useful for participating in one of their events. Here are a couple of my favourites below. The exercises are perfect to include in your personal training workout plans as they offer different movements and different challenges from the normal gym routine.

You’ll notice the emphasis on bodyweight training. Similar to Crossfit, this is definitely an area that may scare a lot of us, but is definitely an important part of these muddy runs.

It’s definitely worth checking out Youtube for Tough Mudder and similar events and seeing what the courses involve and consequently what body movements are needed.

The truth is these events and Crossfit have grown in popularity so much because they are so effective at getting people fit and healthy as well as being a lot of fun. Traditionally, we have always thought of personal trainers working in gyms and using the usual machines and exercise equipment but there is a new era of fitness here. People have different goals and aims and as a personal trainer it’s about being able to adapt and create an environment in which you can help someone do this.

As I’m sure you’d agree, training someone for one of these muddy runs is going to very much depend on their abilities – their age, weight, strength, goals, etc, but there are certainly a few exercises and fundamentals that everyone can follow.

Running

To complete a Tough Mudder or any muddy run, you must be able to run about 10 miles on average. This isn’t a marathon but it’s certainly not something that should be taken lightly if your clients don’t have much experience running.

In these muddy obstacle courses, it’s not as much about finishing as fast as possible, its about finishing. Therefore any training isn’t about shaping a fast time. It’s simply about teaching people how to keep on going when they feel like their bodies are telling them they should stop.

During the race you are going to be climbing over walls, under barbed wire, up and down hills, etc. Basically you will be doing a full bodyweight workout and running hills on top of running miles. This means doing bodyweight exercises when you are tired and trying to replicate the real course environment is important. First things first, I would step out of that gym and base a lot of the training in the great outdoors. You want to get used to running and training in the every element, whether that’s wind, rain, sun, heat, snow, etc.

tough mudder running

Example Running Schedule

Ideally you want to mix long runs with some shorter running, as well as lots of rest.

It’s good to start running months ahead of the event, that way you can build up your running ability. 6 months away from the event I would introduce small runs once or twice a week. These runs don’t need to be too long. The main focus here is getting someone used to running and getting someone in the mindset of running every week. Try to mix up the runs on different terrains, for example, throw in some hill runs here and there to really test someone’s ability.

About 3 months before the race I would pick up the milage and try to include some 5-8 mile runs each week as well as multiple short runs that week also. Then at about two months before the race try to up it to 10 miles every weekend, again with shorter runs sprinkled in around that. In the month building up to the race, make sure 10-12 mile runs feels manageable. The time isn’t so important, just the ability to finish it. We don’t want to burn out before the race though so make sure they are well rested and their muscles have time to repair. I would recommend physio sessions leading up as well to really give the muscles all the help they can get!

Unfortunately, even if you nail the running element, you’re only half way there – what comes next is what can be the real challenge: the strength training!

Strength Training

You will need some strength to get around a course. We’re not talking bodybuilding here, but getting familiar with pulling your own body-weight will certainly put you in a good position.

Doing pull-ups is hard enough when you’re in the gym, but try them when you’re tired, wet, muddy and knowing their is another obstacle only moments away. It’s tough. There’s no doubt about that.

Since most of the obstacles only require lifting yourself, and maybe helping others do the same, you can train pretty effectively with just bodyweight exercises.

Some classic exercises to cover the fundamentals of any muddy race should include:

  • Pull-Ups
  • Push-Ups
  • Dips
  • Sit-Ups
  • Plank

 

Developing a Workout

You’ll want to adapt a workout to suit the individual’s needs – just remember it’s about body-weight focus. I personally think Crossfitters are very suited to these events so if you have access to a crossfit gym then that’s a big help. If not, then you might want to think about getting in some extra exercise equipment for your clients.

Weighted Vests and Resistance Bands (to help with pull-ups) would be in my kit bag for these kinds of workouts.

There’s some other cool equipment you could look out for – such as a speed resistor or agility hurdles. 

You can split the bodyweight exercises into different sessions, such as back, chest and legs (like you would in more traditional weight-lifting) or just focus on circuit training. You’ll know what’s best for your client.

If you really want to take it to the next level, then mastering these following exercises would be very useful as well:

  • Muscle-Ups
  • One Arm Lock-Off
  • One Arm Pull-Ups
  • One Arm Push-Ups
  • Inverted Plank

Similar to the running schedule, I would start out 6 months out just getting used to basic exercises like push ups and pull-ups. Really focus on being able to do these when tired (for example, after a running session). Then 3 months out, if you can start to incorporate things like muscle-ups you are really in a good position to take on whatever the course throws at you!

Although I’ve said to focus on body-weight exercises, that’s not to say, you can’t include exercises like deadlifts and squats to increase general strength and muscle mass.

Remember not to ignore legs. With all the running it’s easy to skip a good legs workout but strong legs are certainly going to help when it comes to tackling those obstacles. Stronger legs will benefit your running as well as the ability to launch yourself into obstacles better. 

Diet

Diet is always important in reaching health and fitness goals. A good balanced diet is going to be good for competing in a Tough Mudder. Don’t fall for a crazy diet, just make sure you’re eating plenty of healthy foods and you’re giving your body the energy it needs.

Secret Tips For Race Day

Here is some insider information that is definitely worth passing on:

  • Avoid cotton

You’re going to be wet, you’re going to be fully submerged at some point, and it’s going to be cold so wear proper sports clothing. Stay away from cotton, which will soak up the water and mud, dragging you down and keeping you chilled. Instead, opt for materials that wick away moisture, like Dri-FIT or COOLMAX, and fit closely to the body to reduce chafing.

Check out Amazon for this clothing.

Team outfits are sometimes a good idea and help emphasise that team spirit even more. Also, remember to bring a change of clothes so you can enjoy the post-event party dry and warm.

  • Wear gloves

A good pair of gloves with open tips so the water drains out of them will help you grab onto things when you’re wet and doing the obstacles. This makes things like pull-ups a lot easier. Trying to grip with wet or muddy hands is difficult for anyone, regardless of strength, so gloves will make those obstacles easier. Weight lifting or cycling gloves will protect your hands and improve your grip on obstacles like monkey bars or rope climbs. 

  • Enlist friends

The team element is important and if you can do it as part of a team it will definitely make a big difference. You’re bound to make more friends during the event itself but having the team environment in the build up and being able to help each other makes for a very special occasion. 

  • Train outside

We covered this earlier but training outside is a really important aspect. Don’t sit at the air-conditioned or heated gym and do bench presses and curls finishing off in the hot tub. Mimic obstacles at every chance during training. 

  • Get wet

It will be cold. Falling into icy water should be expected so it’s better you know what that feels like sooner rather than later. If you’re brave enough to throw a bucket of water over yourself before you go on one of your runs, you’re going to find the muddy run a lot less challenging. 

  • Wear old, grippy shoes

You want a pair of trainers that you are comfortable running in. They should ideally be very grippy to help on the obstacles. You don’t want to be sliding everywhere due to bad trainers. 

tough mudder obstacles

  • Fundraise

This is no easy feat and many of your friends and family would probably sponsor you to do it so why not raise a bit of money for charity. 

  • Enjoy it!

These events are designed to be hard and challenging but make sure you enjoy it as well. Soak up the atmosphere and try your best. 

Rob Turp

4 Responses to “Muddy Runs and Tough Mudder Workouts

  • Great tips! I really needed to do more strength training to feel more confident at the Tough Mudder, but because it’s a team effort, you get a lot of support from other people! Totally agree that you should really work on your running so that you’re strong for the Mudder…so many people were getting cramps!

    • Fitness Team
      3 years ago

      Thanks for the tips Janelle 🙂 You runners definitely have a big advantage for Tough Mudders. I need to work on my running before I take on another one

  • Great tips! I really needed to do more strength training to feel more confident at the Tough Mudder, but because it’s a team effort, you get a lot of support from other people! Totally agree that you should really work on your running so that you’re strong for the Mudder…so many people were getting cramps!

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