The Tough Mudder is an awesome race and experience. I highly recommend it to anyone who wants a fitness challenge and to have an amazing time. The best part is the cool obstacles. Before I discuss the articles, if you’re interested, here are my other posts on the Mudder:
Tough Mudder Tips – Includes general tips related to training, diet, race day info, parking, clothing, etc.
How to Train for a Mud Run– more extensive diet and fitness advice for running races like the Mudder.
Now, onto the Tough Mudder obstacles. The list below represent three different Mudders I’ve completed (Kentucky 2012 and 2015 and Pittsburgh 2013 and 2014). Not all of these obstacles are currently utilized regularly, but they are listed here for completeness. As I experience newer obstacles, I will add them, especially since Mudder season is heating up for 2016.
Do a control+F to search a particular obstacle for quick access.
This isn’t really an official obstacle, but it was by far the most difficult part of the course. If your event has big hills, I recommend training your core and practice running hills to master the Mudder. My strong core kept me stable as I went up and down the slick, muddy hills. Some of the hills were so muddy, we literally got on our butts and slid down them since walking safely was impossible.
Some of the uphill parts will definitely require teamwork as well. They’re simply too slick. Hold onto trees or roots and help others. Take your time going down too.
Kiss of Mud
This is basically crawling in mud. Prepare to get low or get cut by barbed wire. If you’re tall or on the larger side, they could be a challenge. Upper body strength is a plus to pull yourself forward.
It’s a dumpster filled with water and ice. Yes, it sucks horribly in the colder months (and even in the summer). You jump in, wade a few feet, go under a bar (and under water), then quickly exit. The cold is such a shock to the body, you literally lose some control of your movements. Your body just reacts with shock. The only “tricks” are to stay mentally focused and get the hell out of there! You may have to muster up a lot of strength to get out. Focus on getting out on the first try, because your body is stressing and every time you fail, it becomes that much harder on the other attempts.
These are both straight wooden walls with one very tiny step. Oh, and there’s two of them.
Upper body strength and teamwork are a must. I had two people boost me, I put my leg over, hung down from the top, then dropped a few feet. It is really high (about ten feet). The drop was jarring. An accidental fall would’ve hurt or broken something. Make sure you have good help and “dangle and land.” Don’t jump.
This obstacle requires getting to the top of a tall angled (and slick) wall. The best way is to have people lie down against the wall, then others lie down on top of them (like a pyramid). At that point, the other participants can climb the bodies up to the top. It’s best to have bigger, stronger people forming the human pyramid, especially at the bottom. I’m not a huge fan of this obstacle, because it slows down the event a lot. This was the only obstacle with a long wait.
This involves jumping over water filled pits. Only one was too far for me to make the jump. It’s hard to get your footing when jumping and landing because of the mud. You don’t want to overextend a groin muscle, so keep your core tight and stable. If you can’t make the jump safely, just go in the water.
This is climbing up a hay bale wall. It wasn’t hard, but some shorter people might require a little help from someone on top (or below). Be cool and stick around and help others.
This obstacle involves crawling through a dark, wooden tunnel. Be careful because it turns. Also watch the knees and the head because there are wooden beams on the top and bottom. Otherwise it’s just a matter of staying low and feeling your way ahead.
I found this one surprisingly easy. It involved going through a small gate with flames spitting out then jumping over more flames into a deep pit of water. Then you had to crawl out. Get a running jump and go! It looks intimidating, but it’s actually not that difficult in practice.
Use your arms to “walk” across water using only two iron poles that angle upward. It does require some upper body strength, especially in the triceps. The key is to keep your arms stiff and use your legs to build momentum as you move (almost like a monkey).
This was a long part of the trail that was insanely muddy, up to a few feet deep. One guy was stuck like he was in quick sand and three of us had to pull him out! Watch your shoes because they’re easy to lose here. Duct tape was worthless. Double tie them extremely tight.
The only sure tips are to walk on your tip toes as much as possible and find the least muddy routes (this is possible). Go near the trees for grip help too. To avoid slipping, keep your center of gravity low.
Just climbing over and under a Lincoln Log type of structure. Stick close to the joints and it’s simple. For the under part, get low.
King of the Mountain
This was a cool castle made of hay bales. It was easy, but required some upper body strength. I just pulled myself up. Shorter people might need a boost.
This was an unusual obstacle that involved one person holding a rope tight while another person climbed up a tube (using the rope) while lying on his or her back. It’s not hard. Just pull yourself up and slide up the plastic tube. Getting out of the hole backwards was a little different but not hard.
Climb up a very steep hill with a lot of mud. Use teamwork and roots/trees/other items to pull yourself if necessary. Find grooves and rocks to plant your feet.
This involved, at least at my event, going down a steep slope into a pit then climbing back up. It was a little jarring. I simply slid, but be careful. The slope was steep and the pit was fairly deep.
Hold Your Wood
It sounds sexual, but this half mile walk carrying a log actually killed my upper body. Grab a giant piece at your own risk! It helps to shift the wood around various positions so one muscle isn’t overly exhausted. For example, you can curl it for a few hundred yards, and then hold it down by your side for another hundred.
It’s crawling through a muddy pit with live wires hanging down. I got jolted a couple times. It felt like someone flicking me with their fingers followed by a tingle. Some people got a running start and slid most of the way through. That appeared to be the best strategy. But, the way they’re retooled it, this isn’t usually possible. Otherwise, just crawl and try to avoid the wires as much as possible. You will get shocked. You’ll just have to deal with it.
Balls to the Wall
This involves climbing up a huge wall using only a rope and occasional planks. This obstacle might be tough for those who hate heights. It’s kind of like scaling a wall, but not as hard because they add planks to get your footing. You’ll need upper body strength. Pull yourself up to each plank and work your way up the wall’s face. Be very, very careful at the top transitioning from rope to rope. They give you a bar to hang onto at least. On the way down hold tight and be careful.
This obstacle involves climbing up a series of muddy hills underneath giant netting. At the top, a group holds the net while the other participants climb upward beneath it. The best method is to hold up the net while also using your strength to get to the top. Use teamwork to hold the net and pull up/push up fellow mudders. It definitely requires teamwork.
This involves swinging across water on rings. Most people did one or two and fell in the water. The rings were so far apart that it’s a big challenge. A spectator said she hadn’t seen a woman even complete it. Many people were hanging by their forearms bent at the elbow, built momentum, then swung over and grabbed the next ring. Then they used the same strategy. It took awhile, but seemed to work. Simply swinging from ring to ring is possible, but only if you have long arms.
This was like the mud mile but with clay type mud. Lots of people were losing shoes and some people were knee deep. I simply picked the route with the least mud and finished it pretty quickly. Don’t be a hero unless you want to be shoeless.
You slide down a tube into some water, then climb back up a tube. It involves going under the water for a second on the way up, which is a little unnerving. Otherwise, it’s an easy obstacle. Still, you may have to grip a little to avoid sliding backwards during the up portion.
Blades of Glory
This involves climbing up slanted walls that are nearly 7 feet tall. It might require teamwork depending on your strength. I just did it myself by staying near the edge planks. I used those to climb up and over.
Walk the Plank
Climb a wall, then jump around twenty feet into a fifteen feet deep pool. If you hate heights, it’ll be tough. Going down was awesome, though, like a roller coaster. One word of safety advice: be very careful when jumping. Make sure the person in front of you has already emerged from the water and has swum far enough away that you won’t land on them. Look out for your teammates and other Mudders to make sure everyone emerges from the water.
Here you run up a giant, muddy slide and people at the top pull you over. This is tough if you’re not tall and/or your teammates (or the guys helping up top) aren’t strong. It absolutely requires help and some good tread. Rub the mud off your shoes and get a nice running start.
This is a monkey bar obstacle. It’s much easier than it used to be. They’ve put the bars closer together on the recent versions of it.
Try to swing like a monkey using one arm per bar. Also, give time for the person in front of you to get a head start. Otherwise you might be waiting for them while hanging, which saps muscle strength. If you don’t have the upper body strength, then just fall in the water.
Run through live wires up to ten thousand volts surrounded by mud. That’s pretty much it. It sounds horrific, but it’s actually not bad. The electric shocks cause involuntary muscle contraction, which means you might go down (I did in Pittsburgh). Just get back up…and then get ready to go down again!
Pull your arms up close to your face (so you don’t get shocked there) and go, making sure to dodge the hay bales they put in your way. This method is quick and involves less bodily exposure. Go through as a group, to spread the juice around. Also, since this obstacle is always last and easily observed from the starting line, spend a few minutes before you start the race observing people run through the wires. Get a general idea where the “safer” routes are.
This is where you take turns carrying a teammate for about fifty yards. It’s not my favorite obstacle, but I see why they do it (military and all). Basically, pick a position that is comfortable for you. The traditional “Fireman’s Carry” is probably one of the easier methods on the body.
In this obstacle, you float in water underneath chain link fencing on your back. It’s not difficult, but it’s a little unnerving, especially since in places you have about four inches from the top of the water to the fence (my ears were underwater at this point). I advise holding onto the cage and pulling yourself along as you float on your back. If you have an irrational fear of drowning, avoid this one.
Fire In Your Hole
This is a special obstacle for legionnaires (a giant water slide basically). Be careful climbing to the top on the netting. By this point most people will be exhausted and it is high. When going down lie flat. I would advise holding your nose. I got water up my nose and the water around my ears hurt like hell. It’s a fun ride though.
I hope these tips are helpful. I highly recommend doing the Tough Mudder. The obstacles are challenging, but, in the end, very fun.