At first I was planning to post this to the Mudder blog. But I realized that my whole approach to training for the Mudder was based on things I know from being on T-Nation. So here goes. It's been quite an experience so far, and any feedback or questions are both welcome and appreciated.
In early January 2012 a colleague at work asked if Iâ??d be interested in putting together a team for an upcoming Tough Mudder event. Iâ??d never heard of it before, so I Googled Tough Mudder that night and watched a number of YouTube videos on past events from 2011. The next day at work, my answer to him was â??Hell, Yes!â??
We were able to confirm shortly thereafter this event would be a full 12 miles with a total of 27 obstacles. At that point, we were just over 15 weeks out from the event. Knowing that I was pushing 42 years of age and hadnâ??t done any running since 2006, I had to quickly put together a training regimen that would allow me to be ready for the Mudder by Week 14. From reading several Triathlon blogs, I was able to determine the week before the event needed to be set aside for recovery and refueling.
First off, I had to list my goals for the training program. Maintain or improve base strength, improve grip strength, overall agility and explosiveness, and drastically improve my endurance (especially on off-road, uneven terrain). At first, these seemed like contradictory goals, and part of me wasnâ??t sure if I was biting off more than I could chew. But I decided to use my 20 years of training experience to put together a program, devote the next 15 weeks of my life to it, and let the chips fall.
I had just come off a mass phase where I increased my bodyweight from 180 to 190 and had made major improvements to my overall strength. I expected to lose most of the bodyweight I had just gained but wanted to maintain as much base strength as possible.
My plan was to keep the resistance training simple and functional. I chose mostly unilateral movements for lower body to mirror the movement patterns Iâ??d be experiencing during the event. Step-ups, split squats and single-leg RDLâ??s. I also threw in box jumps to try and improve my agility and explosiveness. Upper body was various pull-up variations (especially towels) for back , both weighted and unweighted. Various versions of push-ups and dips for chest, as well as dumbbell push presses and barbell clean & presses for shoulders.
Functional training started with tossing my wrist straps in a drawer for the duration. Grip strength has always been a weak point, so I decided to hit that one hard from the get-go. I also started hitting the local playground and performed multiple sets on the monkey bars, finishing with dead hangs to failure, to try and improve my functional upper body strength for various obstacles. I also started jumping and climbing over any apparatus the playground was able to provide.
Conditioning training was a combination of sprint workouts to try and improve overall VO2 max and interval recovery (which is a big part of the Mudder) and slower, steadier paced trail runs of ever-increasing length (finishing with a 10-miler two weeks out from the event).
Weekly programming would be two weighted resistance workouts (total body), one bodyweight resistance workout (total body) and two conditioning workouts. Resistance workouts would consist of one lower, one push and one pull exercise for 3 sets of 5-6 reps each. The bodyweight workout would be 4-5 sets of max reps. The plan was to switch to two resistance workouts and three conditioning workouts at week 7 or 8 if my conditioning wasnâ??t coming along as planned. I was also going to use alternating sets, supersets and giant sets to help with overall work capacity and conditioning also.
I knew that aside from training my nutrition and supplementation would probably make or break me. Basic macros would be high carb, moderate protein and low-moderate fat. Refined carbs were out the door, and I would rely on natural granola, potatoes, rice, fruits and veggies for my carb sources. Protein would be lean meats, Omega-3 eggs and whey protein. And I would rotate my fats weekly. Coconut oil, walnut oil, macadamia oil, olive oil, almond butter and natural peanut butter. And fish and salmon oil, of course. Generally, Iâ??d pick two for the week and then rotate. Peri-workout/post-workout nutrition would include Surge Recovery, chocolate milk/banana or Gatorade/amino acids depending on the particular workout that day (5 grams of creatine as a staple).
From past history, I knew training five days a week would quickly put my T levels in the shitter. I had two options to deal with that eventuality: add a natural T booster like Alpha Male or rely solely on proper nutrition. I also did a cost benefit analysis. My typical multi-vitamin/multi-mineral plus Alpha Male was a little cheaper than Superfood plus Elite-Pro Minerals. But the articles Iâ??d read on Superfood and Elite-Pro were very compelling. In the end, I decided to forego the T booster route and crank up my nutrition into the stratosphere to try and keep my hormone levels where they needed to be. I knew I also had an ace in the hole with my choice of fats and fish oils. Two heaping scoops of Superfood with breakfast and one serving of Elite-Pro before bed.
I was also going to add Spike tablets before my most intense workouts and use Power Drive liberally to help with CNS recovery. I knew my CNS was going to get blasted by the volume of work I had planned.
Well, that was the plan back in January. Time for a progress update. I just started Week 11, and the results have been amazing. Iâ??ve increased my strength across the board. Every single exercise. My box jump height has improved significantly. My grip strength on monkey bars and various apparatus is light years ahead of what it was when I started. And my endurance has gone through the roof. My first 2-mile trail run just about killed me. But Iâ??ve since done 6 miles twice, as well as one 8-miler. And Iâ??ve graduated from sprints at the local football field to hill sprints at the park where I do my trail runs. And my run times are right on what it typically takes for people to complete the Mudder.
And the biggest surprise --- Iâ??ve only lost about a pound of bodyweight!
The combination of training and nutritional knowledge Iâ??ve gained from reading T-Nation all these years has been invaluable. And Iâ??m totally sold on the combination of Superfood and Elite-Pro. Using the â??morning tent poleâ?? as a barometer of my T levels, as well as my day-to-day recovery, this combination of supplements has had a phenomenal effect on my training. I was recently forced to take five days off due to work-related travel. I deliberately overtrained the two weeks before my trip, and maintained these two supplements while I was on the road. After those five days, I can say with certainty that my T levels are now â??high normalâ??. Just ask my wife! And my first workout back from the trip? Stronger than I was a week ago. I also credit this supplement combo with keeping me from getting nothing more than a minor head cold despite the rampant illness at my place of work these last three months.
Looking back recently, I realized that my entire approach to training for the Mudder came from articles Iâ??ve read over the years here on T-Nation. Training, nutrition, supplementation, managing recovery, managing workload and work capacity, all of it. Without all the knowledge Iâ??ve gained here, doing the Mudder at 42 years old would have been a pipe dream.
But, here I am at four weeks out, supremely confident that my training has been far tougher than the Mudder will be. Iâ??ll be going in both strong and healthy, which will let me enjoy the event rather than dreading it.
Iâ??ll follow up in four weeks once the event is over. But for the moment --- thanks for everything T-Nation.