There are always a lot of questions that go through your head when you first sign up for a Tough Mudder. The first feeling is apprehension because you don’t know what to expect and I am putting together a brief survival guide on your training approach, how log you need to train based on your current level of fitness and what gear to use for a Tough Mudder. I will also cover some brain tips to help prepare you even more for the event and make sure you have a better chance of success when doing a mudder event. This is not yet the complete Tough Mudder survival guide but a good starting point and covers some of the training, nutrition and clothing related questions.
Initial emotions that go through your head when you sign up will be a mix of apprehension, excitement and expectation, this is due to making a rash decision because you saw something or someone in a TM video or saw a picture of a friend or even a promotional one of people doing a event or obstacle. My motivation was seeing a friend complete one who was a lot unfit than I was. My decision to sign up was also based on the fact that I wanted to prove something or myself and that I didn’t want to wait any longer. As soon as you sign up and your confirmation comes through your excitement will grow but you will also feel the apprehension as you wonder if you are able to complete the event.
To overcome some of the apprehension and emotions the best thing is to start training. Even if you don’t have a full training plan, start with running. You will need to be able to do at least 5 – 6 miles of continuous running at a bare minimum to be able to cope with the course. This is because the course is broken up into sections with the obstacles which will help recovery in between while you do an obstacle.
Having a training plan will also keep you motivated and improve the focus on your goal, break down each goal into achievable steps in your training and preparation. Use a calendar and work your plan. Tick of each days training and preparation. Make sure you read up all of the requirements for your event as part of your preperation as this will help ease any tension and you will be less likely to pull out. Make sure you know where to park, if you are staying over book a hotel, plan your clothing, food and any post event treatment or recovery plans.
Any training is better than no training but more regular training improves your self confidence, increases your capacity and helps you focus on your goal and makes sure you keep on track when following a training plan. For the people who don’t do any training start running, even if only for 1 miles a day for the first week, slowly build your distance and work on improving your time. Pay attention to your running form to ensure good running technique to prevent injury and ensure efficiency in motion.
Do bodyweight exercise if you have no gym to go to, the basics and still the best exercises will be push-ups, pull-ups, sit ups and variations thereof. You can also do burpees, these are by far the most effective bodyweight exercise to increase body strength, cardio fitness and is an excellent full body workout
Rep x Sets Exercise
- 10 x 3 Push up
- 10 x 3 Pull up
- 10 x 3 Sit up
- 10 x 3 Burpees
Research has categorically proven that HIT training gives you the most benefit for the shortest amount of time spent.
I am also going to link to an Elliott Hulse video which I have been experimenting with which is titled “The ONLY 4 Exercises You Need to Grow Stronger”. So far I have found that the exercises are the most complete and target the biggest muscle groups when done with the correct form! It also can be done within a very short period time.
I do have one word of warning, although they are good exercises I wont do them for long periods of time. I will use them as a rest period exercise and then get back to my normal intensive mix of running distance, sprint HIT training and high intensity weight training. I would suggest looking at his deadlift video as this is the best way of breaking down a complete and effective deadlift technique. I will be doing a review of the technique which I think will explain some of the muscle groups used and how I have found it has targeted muscles.
Review what you eat and make changes to support your exercise demand, by doing this you help your body recover and help the muscles develop and improve your overall health. Make sure you reduce the amount of carbs you eat and processed foods. This will include crisps, take-out foods, ready meals and any mass produced foods. Sugar, soda’s and any cereal is detrimental to your energy levels. Dairy needs to be reduced or eliminated due to mass farming practices the nutrition is poor and not overall beneficial for your health, if you do drink dairy buy from farms that produce milk from grass fed cows that have healthy animals.
Buy grass fed beef and animals reared to high pasture standards, this ensures the benefits of a healthy animal is passed on to you as a consumer. Reduce gluten based foods based on wheat like bread, pasta, pizza etc. Majority of people are gluten intolerant and this will also reduce your bloated feeling. Increase your healthier fats like grass fed butter and if you cannot eat butter due to dairy intolerance use ghee or coconut oil for cooking purposes. These fats are complex saturated ones which help make you feel sated and the body uses these fats easily and provides a constant craving free energy level.
Drink enough water, if you drink coffee buy good quality beans and grind them yourself. This means single bean coffee from high altitudes, this coffee tastes better and has a better effect on your body due to less mold and toxins in the beans. Caffeine is also very beneficial to training as it improves recovery time and aids performance. To help with training muscle development and recovery use a protein supplement post and pre training.
There are various protein powders that are on the market but once again try and get the best quality to help recovery and muscle development. If you do select a whey protein get one that is made from grass fed cows, this ensures the best nutrient that is easily digested by the body. It also has added benefit that the animals themselves are healthier, whey produced from grass fed cows is also not denatured, denatured means the proteins have been damaged by heat treatment. Undenatured whey has a protein which is in better condition and more complete which means a more complete product that you can use.
A lot of protein supplement have a lot of additional supplements/nutrients added to them, although they can be beneficial unless you definitely know that you need the extra nutrition start with the basic and then test with other products. Make sure you read the nutritional information and understand why you want to buy the product. Don’t just blindly take it, test how your body reacts to it and change as you need to.
I have links to the bulletproofexec site as I have done extensive test over the years with healthier vegetarian favoured diet and I don’t have the same energy levels and benefits that I get from following the advice on Dave Asprey’s blog. The only positive I have had is being able to identify a good quality vegetable protein which I would recommend if you want to stick to a vegetarian based product.
Depending on the time of year you are doing an event there are a number of things you can have or do without. For hot weather you can use compression shorts under some normal gym shorts, a compression t-shirt or for men without a shirt. For those that have calf cramps or problems compression socks/sleeves can help recovery and support. Gloves are a point of contention as they can helps protect your hands and provide good grip for obstacles like monkey bars but they can be worn down quickly and get chucked away.
You can either use cheap neoprene ones or go for a high end one. My last TM i went without gloves as on all occasions I have crashed out on monkey bars. For colder events gloves can protect the hands but also provide some warmth, just as long as they drain well, if they don’t drain then you will have a lot of muddy water in the gloves and they become a nuisance. I used a pair of Petzl Cordex Leather Gloves, they were brilliant at protection and grip were good for leather. I am considering a different pair of gloves to see if it provides warmth, are lightweight and excellent grip so come back for a review.
For clothing in colder events I used UnderArmour Coldgear Compression trousers and top, these also provided excellent protection and warmth during a November North West Tough Mudder. I have used them in early spring for London North Tough Mudder and I didn’t overheat and felt comfortable during the whole event. I also used the top when I ran the paras10 challenge, this is a 10 mile course the parachute regiment cadets have to run and complete within 1 hour 50. This is done with a 35 pound backpack or bergen, long trousers and military style boots. It provided good warmth and protection throughout the event
Shoes – This can be a lengthy discussion in itself. I have for the last 18 months exclusively used Vibram Fivefingers for gym and running training, For consistency I have done all 3 TM’s using Vibram’s and have never had an issue. It took me close to 9 months before I was able to get any longer distance running done in them as you have to change your running style to stop doing heel strikes and use shorter strides with a faster cadence. I have found that this has strengthened my legs and it means I can feel the weight and load distribution better through my feet and legs and modify my run to make sure I am balanced and comfortable.
I personally chose KSO trek sports Vibram’s as I wanted a shoe which could stand outdoor trail runs but also had good lace up capability. On all 3 Tm’s I have tightened the velcro straps once the shoes got soaked and muddy and they never came off unless someone stood on my heel. Even then getting them back on was quick and easy. A lot of mudtap contributors use trail shoes and these are the best if you don’t want a barefoot type shoe. Trail shoes have more aggressive tracks to cope with muddy conditions and are lighter than normal running shoes.
In all cases there is a toss up between taping a shoe up with Gaffer or Duct tape or just lasing it up tightly. Duct tape can work but weakens or comes off after a while and can be annoying to get off. You can also lose a bit of traction as it makes for smooth slippery soles. For most people they can get away with normal running shoes that they have had for a while. Don’t buy new shoes unless you are willing for them to be lost or ruined.
I have seen many people running Tough mudder’s with a shoe missing because they weren’t laced properly. This hasn’t been too bad for the last few as the conditions weren’t that muddy when I was running but with bad wet and very muddy conditions shoe loss goes up dramatically.
To recap for a Tough Mudder the gear you need will be as follows
- Shoes – preferably trail shoes or old running shoes
- Gloves – neoprene or I have seen people mentioned Gorilla gloves from Wal Mart. Depends on personal preference in cold weather I think a must for protection
- T-Shirt – Compression shirt for protection from scrapes etc, In cold conditions use a version which helps insulate and keep you warm.
- Shorts/Tights – Again compression gear under shorts or just long legged compression gear.
- Socks – I have not bothered with the Vibrams, Will have to check with other mudtap mudders on their verdict
- Compression sleeves – this will be for people prone to calf stress.
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