With many Tough Mudder events and other adventure races on the horizon there will be lots of you taking part in these types of challenges, but how should you optimise your training for these races.
Here at Champneys we’ve asked some experts about the different types of training you can do to prepare for Tough Mudder and similar events as well as other bits of advice like enjoying spa breaks to recover after your race. First we’ve listed some of the top adventure races you can enter.
- Tough Mudder – the most famous and iconic adventure race is certainly Tough Mudder. There are a number of different course lengths – from the 5k through to the Toughest Mudder’s – and these challenge a whole spectrum of Mudder’s according to their level of fitness. All Tough Mudder’s races will challenge your stamina and strength.
- The Spartan Death Race – an international event that is renowned for being a brutal obstacle course and it’ll challenge your adaptability and stamina.
- Wolf Run – this combines three kinds of off-road running; mud runs, trail runs and obstacle runs. It will certainly challenge your stamina and strength.
- Warrior Dash – the 5k get-dirty obstacle course race is one that everyone can start and finish. It will test your adaptability and stamina.
As the great Benjamin Franklin once said ‘by failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail’ and this is so true when it comes to training for an adventure race. Jennipher Walters CEO/Co-founder of Fit Bottomed Girls says it’s important to research the obstacle course you’ll be tackling.
“Do a little research to see what obstacles you're going to most likely be asked to do in the race and then see how you can replicate the moves to make sure you're ready for them. Some good general things to work on are pull-ups, push-ups, tricep dips, core work, and planks. Also, make sure you can run the distance comfortably - because remember, you're going to be asked to run AND do those fun obstacles.”
Just like you would training for a marathon, you need to train properly and Fit Bottomed Girls’ Jennipher Walters has some tips.
“Obstacle courses can be so fun! And although it can be tempting to go out and just do one, it's best (and most safe) if you do train for it just like you would any race. That means preparing for at least a month or two ahead of time with runs, bodyweight strength training, balance work, and some plyometric training.”
Ellen, who blogs about her running experiences through her Teen Runner blog, says it’s important to be mentally focused before the race.
“Prepare for the mental battle as well as the physical. You may be completely comfortable with the distance of the race, but it's important to incorporate all the obstacles in your pacing and pre-race plan because they'll definitely zap lots of your energy - especially if you attack them too vigorously at the start of the race!”
Ami Sawran, the Editor at Mudstacle, says obstacle courses aren’t just about the mud baths and it is vital you do lots of aerobic fitness training.
“Obstacle racing isn’t all about crawls, walls and mud baths; the bit in between the obstacles is RUNNING. It really helps to have some level of aerobic fitness so you’re not sapped when you get to the obstacles.
“You should definitely start running, even if it’s short distances. It makes the difference when you’re starting to feel a more competitive edge. Doing things like Parkrun and British Military Fitness classes can really boost your running ability, strength, and help you get some distance in your legs.”
You can also get fit by attending one of our very own boot camps.
Joel Snape, who runs the training and eating blog Live Hard, says that while courses differ you should definitely do lots of off-road running.
“Whatever course you're doing, aim to do plenty of off-road running, preferably with hills, switchbacks and uneven ground. You don't want to be working on your ankle stability for the first time when you're knackered.”
If you’re looking for specific aerobic fitness training tips, Ruggero Loda from Running Shoes Guru suggests including sprints into your training.
“You should incorporate more sprints and changes of pace in your training. While on a road race you can set a pace and keep it throughout, an obstacle race will see you starting, stopping, sprinting, jumping... make sure your fitness is up to a level where you can sustain these changes of pace without leaving you breathless after 10 minutes.”
Jason Fitzgerald, who runs one of the largest running blogs on the internet called Strength Running, says you should run 3-4 times a week during your training.
“OCR's (Obstacle Course Races) like Tough Mudder’s are typically longer than shorter events like Spartan Sprints or Warrior Dash races. So they do require more of a distance running mind-set: athletes should run 3-5 days per week with a regular long run to maximize performance.”
There are so many different obstacles on adventure races and according to Born Barikor, who is the Tough Mudder ambassador, it is important to use your upper body in tandem with your core.
“Whether you’re getting ready to take on your first Tough Mudder 5K or step it up to take on Europe's Toughest Mudder, training is a key step in the journey to the finish line. Each course has its challenges and you need to be ready to take on every mile and every obstacle.
“The important thing when trying to conquer a Tough Mudder is to use your upper body in tandem with your core. When training, focus on exercises which help you master your own body weight with the prime focus on a strong and steady core.”
Michael Price, inov-8 product and marketing director, says as obstacle courses are generally run over muddy ground it’s important that you are wearing appropriate footwear.
“The most important thing is to use footwear that gives you the best grip possible in mud. This will help you stay upright and allow you to cover the ground quicker.
“In 2018 we will again be supporting the Total Warrior events, held in Leeds and in our own backyard in the Lake District. These events are some of the most popular in the UK, attracting tens of thousands each year. We will be there in the fields and on the start lines, helping inspire racers of all abilities to push their boundaries. If you want more tips on obstacle racing, check out this top-10 from one of the country’s best obstacle racers, inov-8 ambassador Ross Macdonald.”
Ami Sawran, adds, “With your kit - it’s all about the footwear. Many people will tell you to wear old, knackered trainers for obstacle courses - this is the complete opposite of what you should do. Invest in a good pair of trail shoes that will help you grip on those muddy hills. There are great trail shoes out there from as little as £25.”
Ruggero Loda from Running Shoes Guru says there are certain aspects you need to look at before buying trail running shoes.
A) Grip - You need a shoe with an outsole made of a specific kind of sticky rubber and with an aggressive lug pattern. The last thing you want is for your foot to slide and fall face first into a puddle or an obstacle.
B) Some kind of water resistance - They don't need to be totally waterproof, but they should also not become completely soaked at the first puddle. Running with wet feet means they will be heavier and an almost certain guarantee for blisters.
C) Extra stability - A good shoe for an obstacle race will help your foot land straight on an uneven terrain - a road shoe is not meant for that kind of terrain and will most certainly result in a sprained ankle or worse.
Editor of Mudstacle, Ami Sawran, says, “Obstacle racing can look big, bad, brutal and bloody, but there are SO many different races out there -one to suit everyone’s different idea of what an OCR should be. The OCR community is super friendly and supportive, so please don’t swerve an event because you don’t feel good enough - there are always people around to help, and with a bit of training, it definitely gets easier!”
Mindith Rahmat, Founder of BreakingMuscle.com, says that preparing for your first Tough Mudder event or obstacle course race should include lots of mobility exercises.
“Make sure that you do mobility exercises to maintain flexibility in the joints of the lower half of your body. You're going to be moving across uneven surfaces and your body will be put under stress. You just have to make sure that you're prepared sufficiently while staying cautious so as to avoid injury. That means keep your mind focused on the terrain and maintain your energy throughout the race.”
Something that many competitors may forget about during the training process is trying to improve your grip, but Tough Mudder ambassador Born Barikor says this is important.
“On these such obstacles, the important thing to remember is ‘You’re Only as Strong as Your Grip’ so improving grip strength will improve overall performance.”
Mudstacle’s Ami Sawran agrees that improving your grip strength is something you should work on ahead of your obstacle course race.
“Luckily, a Tough Mudder is all about teamwork so you should never worry that you’re not going to reach the top of a wall all by yourself. Equally, working on your grip strength will really see you though - simple, fun exercises like going bouldering are brilliant for your grip strength and teaching you about how to hold your bodyweight.”
Mindith Rahmat of Breaking Muscle says that strength training should be another aspect of your training.
“Focus on bodyweight training because, for the most part, you'll be pulling your body up, over and through obstacles. Grip strength will come into play so don't neglect it. This is going to be challenging for most people because, believe it or not, most people have a tough time lifting their own weight. Pull-ups, push-ups, bear crawls, and rope climbs are all exercises that directly translate into movements in obstacle course racing.
“Explosive movements like muscle-ups will give you an edge in overcoming obstacles and Olympic style weightlifting, coupled with sprint interval training, will help add speed for more competitive outcomes.”
Joel Snape, who not only runs Live Hard but has written health and fitness articles for the likes of the Telegraph and the Guardian, recommends practicing obstacles that you haven’t done before the race.
“You don't need to practice every obstacle, but if there's anything that stands out to you as something you've never done, have at least one go at it before you race. Monkey bars, rings and even efficient commando-crawling are extremely technique-dependent, so even if there's no time to build extra grip strength, a practice session can be the difference between a flawless crossing and an early bath. If you're going to be doing loaded carries during the event, have a go at them first: some of the best runners absolutely collapse when they're given a log or a sandbag to carry. And if you're worried about the quarter-pipe closer, do some sprints, squats and kettlebell swings in training: powerful glutes and good acceleration will get you a long way.”
We’ve all been there. We see an obstacle ahead of us and just want to get it over and done with as quickly as possible, but Strength Running’s Jason Fitzgerald says it’s important to take your time.
“While it may seem efficient to move over the obstacles as quickly as you can, you're often given a time penalty for failing some obstacles and of course, the injury risk is higher. Because many of the obstacles are muddy or wet, it's ideal to take your time on them to prevent you from getting hurt or a time penalty.”
The Teen Runner’s Ellen says another important aspect is to enjoy your obstacle race.
“Other than this, enjoy it! Yes, obstacle races are fast becoming competitive, but the reason they first began was to introduce an element of fun and extra challenge to the ordinary 5k or 10k race. If you can keep this in mind, your experience is likely to be more enjoyable, and if you're not stressing about race position you will increase your chances of performing well.
“Obstacle runs serve as a fantastic way to improve overall fitness but are also great fun. If you get the chance, sign up! You won't regret it.”
Finally, after the months of training and then after you’ve completed your mission of running an obstacle course race you need to treat yourself.
There are lots of spas in West Sussex, London and other locations across the UK where you can toast your success with a range of treatments to help your aching legs and body to recover from your exertions.
Check out our special offers and find a treatment to help with your recovery.