So you are one of the 5,000 people entered in the sold out Tough Mudder at Bear Creek Ski Resort, PA on May 2, huh? Well your How to Train for the Tough Mudder google search got you to the blog of not a sports physiologist, not a personal trainer, nor a coach; but the blog of an experienced adventure racer than can give you a couple pointers on what to expect going off road for the first time and having to jump over things, carry things, lift/pull things, and just plain have fun. And believe me, they ARE fun, no doubt hard. There are four key ingredients to obstacles/off-road running:
Running experience off-road
And there are three key things you should not expect:
To be fast
To be able to do all the obstacles
To run every hill
There's about 5 weeks to go until race day and if you don't pretty much have the key ingredients in your pocket already, there's very little time to get there, but you can if you are careful. Start by getting off road. Run hills in a field, run the perimeter of a park or playground. I'd reserve the flat pavement for your speed work once a week. For everything else, find some off-road trail or grassy area and run -- even your long run. If you've never ran anything but pavement, you really should get a feel for the constant uneven surfaces so you can strengthen your ankles a bit and be ready for less-than-flat-and-even surfaces, not to mention going slow. Off-road racing is always a slower pace because there's more challenges than a flat surface. More hills, more off-camber surfaces, and more varied hardness/softness of the surface to make your body work a little harder. Be prepared for it. Endurance is also a key factor. Sure, you can run a 10K with ease, but can you stop 17 times and do 30 push-ups, chin-ups, and swim a lap in-between? Those obstacles are going to require energy -- the same energy you expend in a run, so be ready for it. After you do a run for 45 minutes, hop on your bike or some other form of cross training and go another 45 minutes. The key is keeping your heart pumping at a slow-steady pace (60% of your maximum heart rate) for at least 2 or more hours. 3 hours is ideal. Figure about 1.5 to 2 hrs for this baby at a higher than normal heart rate -- the Tough Mudder website was right on time to finish. Yes, you ran a marathon on pavement -- but can you carry a 10 pound pack for a mile or two? Will your knees hold-up to the extra weight going up a hill? Strength is pretty darn important to do many obstacles. And not just pumping iron. Grab a weighted ball or fill a backpack with cans and start hiking a hill. Guaranteed if you've never done this, you'll feel it in your legs the next day. Do push-ups (mens, not girls), work your core (you'll back will pay if you don't), and take every opportunity to use stairs and put the water bottle on the cooler at work. And the perseverance? Here's where team mates really, really help. You don't want to let them down, nor yourself. You'll help each other immensely just by being by their side. I've been blessed with the best of team mates for many years to help me through some amazing feats. You'll need to be mentally focused on completing the entire thing -- to endure all obstacles and overcome the challenge, and having a friend to help stay focused is truly helpful. You will be tired, hurting, and wanting to serve up a whole lot whine with that cheese. Don't. Your friend doesn't want to hear it. Persevere to proud of yourself for finishing. I'm 50, and I have to play mental games every time I do something. I fight the age thing all the time, but between my own self-satisfaction to finish a hard race or event and hearing it from my friends, I persevere and keep going. You will too -- to be a tough mudder! Congrats!
p.s. disclaimer: I'm not an expert at anything; I'm not a doc, a coach, a personal trainer, nor trained in anything having to do with physical ability. Like I said earlier, just a gal sharing some tips on off-road racing from experience for those that never raced off road. It'll be some of the most fun you ever had.