T Nation

Tips for Aspiring Mudder


I'm finally going to go after that coveted orange Tough Mudder headband. For any veteran Mudders out there, how did you train for the run? Is the best practice just to get out there and run 11 miles? Also, which obstacle was the toughest to get through?
Thanks in advance, Mudders!


No, just getting out and running 11 miles isn't really good practice.

I've run a slew of 5K's, 10K's, half-marathons, and a handful of mud races (Warrior Dash twice, Tough Mudder once). Tough Mudder is a totally different experience from a regular road run. The course will (probably) be extremely hilly, and depending on whether you go solo or with a group, it often turns into more of a group slog (truly, far more people will be walking most of it than truly running the entire thing). It's not necessarily "easier" or "harder" than running 11 straight miles - just VERY different. The obstacles slow things down (sometimes you'll spend two or three minutes just standing there at an obstacle waiting to go through), most people stop at the water stations and stand for a few minutes, and you'll see lots of groups gathering at the start/finish of each obstacle and water stops (which makes some sense, when you think about the group camaraderie and military affiliation this event has). Again, very different from a steady-paced road run.

I do think some distance running is a good idea - if you never run at all, you'll need to get used to doing some running - but the daily event will be much different. I think a successful TM'er has to be fairly light, good at things like bodyweight exercises, have decent sprint speed. Max-effort strength really doesn't matter. Things like climbing skills and gymnastics skills will help - several obstacles are things like scaling a fence, climbing muddy dunes, crossing a pond on monkey bars, rope climbing, etc. TBH, as much as most people would hate it, CrossFit-type training is pretty good for this kind of thing.

What kind of training/background do you have? Do you run at all? Lift? What's your general level of fitness right now?


I'm not much interested in Tough Mudders but I have developed a real affinity to Spartan Beasts and trifectas(all three races in one day) and distance running certainly makes the difference between finishing by doing a lot of walking or running the whole thing and feeling like you're kicking ass.

That being said the thing that gets me is the almost non stop uneven ground and all the down hill. Spartan takes a machine and churns up the dirt which at points have been too much for my knees and I would end up walking even though I wasn't tired.

Other than the rope climb none of the obstacles are over challenging for a trained athlete.


Thanks for your input, ActivitiesGuy - that was just the advice that I was looking for! I was thinking along the same lines. Cleaning up my diet and adding cardio to train will help cut some pounds and make me lighter for the race. I do lift a lot, but I'll bump up my bodyweight exercises.
My primary form of exercise is MMA related. Most of my cardio training and muscle build comes from that, although I spend time lifting as well. I run more sprints than I do long distance, which is why I'm trying to figure out how to approach those 11 miles. I want to be one of those that runs the whole way! Overall, I'd say I'm in a pretty good spot fitness wise.


JRT6, I've heard the rope climb is a killer from a few others, too! I hadn't even thought about the effect the terrain would play over the run, thank you. Trail running for training would be a good idea then.


There was so much mud on the rope that by the time I got there, at the very end of 14 miles, my grip was shot form the cold and I couldn't pick my legs up to use the knots. The mud though was what made them impossible.

Just today I found a bridle trail at the Cuyahoga National Recreational Area that ran through a grad field and was brutally uneven. I'm lucky I didn't leave a patella or ACL in one of the leaf covered holes and ruts. Not fun but perfect for training up in the spring for the next Ohio Spartan.


I did one earlier in the year, ramping up the distance in my runs was the only way I got through it, trail running not road running, hill sprints are a good tool but keep building the miles in the conditions to what your expecting on the day.

I didnt plan for my one to be as wet and boggy as it ended up being, but thats the british summer time for you.


For conditioning, being able to run about 8 km minimum is a must. Well not a must, but it'll make the day a lot more productive and enjoyable for you. Plus some trail runs, hills etc, to condition your legs. I did 3-4 running sessions a week - 1x10 km (slow to medium pace, just to get some kms into my legs), 1-2xhill sprints etc (high intensity), 1x5-7 km (medium pace).

How much you NEED to be able to run (as a bare minimum) depends on how many people are doing the event. The more people, the more time you spend waiting at each obstacle - so you get more rest after running from the previous obstacle. Less people, less rest obviously - so you'll need to be fitter. Over here (Melbourne), the event is held on the Saturday and Sunday of the same week - and there are thousands more people who sign up for the Saturday than the Sunday. So maybe consider how popular a particular day is when thinking about what level of fitness you need - one giveaway is which day sells out first.

That said, there were people doing the event who looked like they could barely WALK 5 km, let alone run 20. I think it comes down to your goal for the event - my goal was not to simply 'get through', but to be in good enough shape to do all the events and to enjoy the experience as well. That's not a knock on those other people - I'm all for getting out there and having a go at things. Just that I wanted more for myself.

For strength, upper body bodyweight lifts are your best bet. Chin-ups, dips (or even push-ups - weighted or unweighted), abs, grip work (particularly static holds for time). I did 2-3 sessions a week.

From what I saw/experienced, people tended to struggle with 2 events the most - the monkey bars (partially because of lack of strength, but also because the bars were slippery as hell - hence the recommendation for grip work), and the half pipe (a skateboard ramp that you have to sprint up, then jump to catch the lip [or have someone catch you] and pull yourself up - so sprints, squats, lunges etc).

Have fun and good luck :slightly_smiling:


Stew Smith has a new 26 week work up to a 34-40+ mile a month work up plan and I'm on it. I need a break so the mileage reset and slowing the pace down is a much needed break. I just need to be disciplined and not get my HR over 140.

So many people who have never run a TM, Spartan Beast and Super, etc just parrot the "you need to sprint" manta when in reality you won't sprint anywhere at the these long races.