I personally love mud runs. I enjoy the challenges and they are good incentives to get in excellent shape. I’ve run 3 Warrior Dashes, a Savage Race, and 5 Tough Mudders. I’ll be doing another Warrior Dash and Tough Mudder this summer.
As an extreme race veteran, I often get asked how to train for a mud run. So, here are my tips and tricks to prepare for even the most difficult mud runs.
First, you’ll need to figure out the details of the mud run you’re doing. The distance and types/number of obstacles can vary wildly. In addition, depending on the race location, the terrain can have a huge impact. Obviously, the ones with tougher obstacles will require more intense training. You’ll need more distance running practice for the longer ones. And, so on.
It’s also important to realistically assess your own fitness and health levels. Mud runs (and training for mud runs) require a lot of strength and stamina. Make sure that you have enough time to get to that minimal level of health and fitness required to compete. Otherwise, running one might be a health risk or you’ll just waste your money.
The first aspect of knowing how to train for a mud run is the fitness component. Your fitness plan should, first and foremost, be centered around one exercise: running. It’s not the most exciting (compared to fun obstacles), but running makes up the majority of most mud runs, even the shorter ones.
It’s vital to run similar conditions to your planned mud run if possible. So, if you are doing a hilly Tough Mudder or Spartan Race, then make sure to train on hills or try to mimic them (hurdles help). If your Warrior Dash or Savage Race is in a flatter area, try to train on flat territory. If your event is five miles, run near that amount regularly or step up to the longer distance over your training period.
Of course, it’s not always possible to mimic the conditions if you live in a place with different geography than your run. But, do the best you can.
Training for the obstacles seems tough because it’s hard to mimic them. But, there’s no need to mimic the obstacles when training for a mud run. What’s important is developing all the muscle groups to have the strength and stamina to complete whatever obstacles they throw at you.
The biggest asset in training for the obstacles of extreme races and mud runs is interval training that works the major muscle groups, especially the core. Interval training involves intense bursts of exercise followed by a brief break. This mimics the obstacles since they are difficult, but brief. Although there are various programs, I have found Beachbody’s Insanity and its sequels, Asylum Volume 1 and Volume 2 work well. Their focus on the core is especially useful for stability going up and down hills and on the obstacles.
In fact, my mud run training routine has been solely focused on running (six to ten miles) combined with interval training through Insanity products or general tabata. I have never had an obstacle that I couldn’t complete. However, other programs work well too. If you can’t afford a program or have limited time, use your body weight to train, using push-ups and pull-ups especially.
However, there are training regimens you should probably avoid if doing a mud run. Anything overly focused on just distance running or body building would not be ideal. You want a combination of strength, speed, and endurance.
Finally, you’ll want to stretch. These races require a good deal of flexibility (jumping over gaps, etc.). The more agile and nimble you can be, the better! Stretch after your workout for best results.
What you put in your body is a huge part of training for a mud run. While there is no preferred nutritional program until the day of, you need fuel that’s going to feed muscle building and allow you to get a lean physique. Carrying around extra weight while running or doing obstacles not only slows you down, but puts undue pressure on your joints.
Up until you race, you’ll want to make sure you don’t consume too many calories and avoid eating junk food. It’s also important to keep your protein levels high enough to facilitate muscle growth. Make sure that you also stay hydrated, especially when training in the heat.
As mentioned earlier, these are only one person’s way (even though it was a successful way). What matters most is that you find an effective training plan to successfully complete the race for which you’re training. Good luck in your mud run and have fun!