Tough Mudder Training: You're Doing it Wrong!

I have to say, SAPT's internship program absolutely rocks. We've got awesome interns and they regularly reinforce their awesomeness by rising to pretty much every challenge thrown at them. Our 400-hour interns, Goose and Josh, have been impressing me for about a full year now, beginning with volunteering hours at the Mason weightroom. Here's another great post from Goose:

With my first Tough Mudder coming up soon the topic of training has been on my mind. For those of you who’ve never heard of it, the Tough Mudder is a 10-12 mile military style obstacle course with 20-25 obstacles spaced out throughout the course. Some of the obstacles include: climbing ropes, scaling walls, crawling long distances, submerging your entire body in 34 degree water, running through fire, and being electrocuted.

I asked people what they were doing to prepare and a shocking majority simply answered with running distance. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a track guy and love running but this is not the best way to prepare for a Tough Mudder. With so many obstacles spread out throughout the course you’re doing a lot of starting and stopping not running 10 miles at once. People get too worried about the total mileage and don’t even think about what sets the Tough Mudder apart, the obstacles!!!

Here is where people go wrong:

1. Way Too Much Running Volume!

Like I said before, people are getting too caught up on the 10 to 13 miles part of the race. The largest distance between obstacles is no longer than 800m which means its lots of stop and go. People would benefit more from doing sprints than 10 mile jogs. Having speed endurance to run fast between obstacles while everyone else jogs will get you to the front of the pack real quick. Some of the obstacles also involve sprinting up a slippery slope and running over a wall. Speed training will benefit individual more than slow repetitive miles.

2. No Strength Training

As I previously stated, people somehow forget about the obstacles! Climbing, crawling, scaling, all of the above take strength and mobility. How are you going to complete theses if you can’t do a simple pull up??

As I explained in my previous article, lifting will make you stronger and run faster! The Tough Mudder is really a prolonged power event with some jogging in between, not an endurance event. Lifting and mastering your bodyweight should be on top of that priority list.

3. Too Much Too Soon

With individuals being in charge of their training and with the mindset that “the more you do the better you get” we’ve got a recipe for disaster. People like to jump right into running way too much or lifting way too heavy. The thought of a prep phase to get the body ready to go gets thrown out the window because we want results NOW! This leads to injury and/or mental burnout if they somehow survive their training. The plethora of knowledge floating around on the internet doesn’t help either. The average Joe seeking a good running and lifting program could end up on an Olympic marathoner’s training plan and Jim Wendler’s 5-3-1 powerlifting program. That’s going to end well ß*sarcasm*

If there is one thing you learn when you’re an injury prone individual, like me, is to listen to your body! The way your body tries to tell you things is with pain signals and soreness. If you go run 10 miles after not doing anything for 6 years and can’t get out of bed the next day, that’s your body calling you an idiot! It may be cliché but slow and steady really does win the race. A well thought out training progression will get you much further than putting yourself through a hell week of training.

4. HR Monitoring

A simple way to gauge your training intensity is getting a heart rate monitor. You might be thinking, even if I get a HR monitor I don’t know what the numbers mean! Don’t worry I’ll explain it through some simple vocab and math:

• First we want to find your Maximum Heart Rate and Resting Heart Rate:

Max HR = 220 – Age

Ex. Max HR: 220 – 22 = 198 bpm (beats per minute)

RestingHeart Rate (RHR): take a couple of minutes to site down and relax. Next find your pulse on your neck or wrist and look at your watch. Count the number of beats for 60 seconds and that is your RHR. A healthy RHR can range from 40 to 80 beats per minute depending on your age and gender.

•Now we need to find your Heart Rate Reserve (HRR):

HRR = Max HR - RHR

Ex. HRR: 198 – 62 = 136

• Almost there! Now we find Target HR. This is where it get a little trick so stay with me. We do this equation twice, once with 60% and the other with 80%.

Target HR: (HRR x 60%) + RHR

Ex. Target HR: (136 x 0.6) + 62 = 143.6 <--- rounded up 144 bpm

Target HR: (HRR x 80%) + RHR

Ex. Target HR: (136 x 0.8) + 62 = 170.8 <--- rounded up 171 bpm

• There we go, finished! So now we have our Target HR range between 60% and 80%. This simply give you an indication of where your HR should be when training. If it goes over the range you’re going too hard, if it goes below you’ve got to step it up a bit.

*This calculation is a close estimate of your Target HR, depending on your conditioning level it may be higher or slightly lower <--- (not likely)*

5. Improper Recovery

Recovery, this is something that gets overlooked by athletes and average Joes alike! All they think about going hard in training 24/7 but are their bodies ready for it? If you went hard yesterday is your body ready to go again? Did you refuel correctly? Get enough sleep? Bro do you even foam roll?

3 simple but effective ways to enhance your recovery:

  • Eat Right!

This may sound like a broken record but eating right really is the best way to refuel. Throw the “recovery drinks” out the window! Fruits, veggies, grains, lean proteins, and of course the staple of any healthy diet: PB&J!! ;)

Quick note on carbo loading. STOP WITH THE CONSTANT CARBO LOADING!!!!! There’s a time and place for everything. Carbo loading was designed to increase the amount of glycogen in the muscles leading up to competition! Glycogen = energy, you’ll get all the glycogen you need to train from a healthy diet. Leave the carbo loading for what it was meant for, competition time.

  • Soft Tissue Work!

Foam rolling, sports messages, lacrosse ball smashing, voodoo floss bands! Yes it’s uncomfortable and yes it hurts but nothing worth doing was even easy/painless! Soft tissue work not only enhances your muscle and joint recovery, it prevent injuries, and it gets rid of those nagging aches all over your body! Tony Gentilcore wrote a great article explaining why even “tough guys” should do soft tissue work. So I repeat my previous question. Bro, do you even foam roll??

  • No More Recovery Beers!

Sorry guys and gals! No more brewskis with the broskis to celebrate that hard WOD you just did. Don’t give me that “research has shown a beer a day is good for you” crap! That’s like saying a cigarette per day keeps the doctor away, sounds legit right???

Don’t listen to doped up Arnold people! And don’t get me wrong I enjoy a nice cold one just as much as the next guy but training is a commitment. How do you expect your body to perform for you if you keep shoving crap like that into it every day! I’m a big believer in you are what you eat/drink, guess what this guys been drinking:

Below is Big Joe, one of out clients here at SAPT. He proves that age is just a number by being stronger than an ox! He qualified for The World's Toughest Mudder which is a 24hr long Tough Mudder. Less than 5% of people who compete in TM qualify for this event, he is one of them and he also lifts heavy objects!

Enough said.