Let me preface this by clarifying that I am a woman with very little muscle mass, if any. I saw people of all shapes, sizes, fitness levels, and ages finish the course… so it absolutely can be done. I can’t speak for everyone but I can tell you a few of the lessons I learned and some of the things I was glad I knew before participating in my first ever Tough Mudder.
Train in the Elements
Now I’ve seen posts that say you should submerge yourself in an ice bath once a week to train for the Artic Enema, but I’m not sure I’d go that far. I would, however, train outside whenever you can. Running on a treadmill may get your cardio time better but that’s about all it will do for you in regards to a Mudder. It could be raining, it could be cold, and it will be muddy. Things will be slippery, wet, used, and abused so I would use that rainy day to get out go for it. Find some stairs to climb, monkey bars to scale, and a path to run. You can use those days as an opportunity to see what gear you’ll need for the big day as well.
Find the Right Gear for YOUR Body
I cannot say enough about being comfortable during the course. 12 miles is a long way for most people (typically at least 3 or 4 hours of strenuous activity) and the last thing you want is to be cold, blistered, hurting (more than necessary), or carrying extra weight. You can do all the research in the world about what the World’s Toughest Mudder wears or what Joe Body Builder brings with him, but in the end you have got to get what is right for you. I researched and read and came so uber “prepared”, except that I hadn’t actually used anything I had gotten. I got a sweat proof base layer to wear under my sleeveless shirt and was absolutely freezing the entire time. I was wet for the duration of the course and although I’m sure the thermal would have helped in warmer situations, it drained the energy out of me as I shivered nonstop from the get-go. I also bought some nice gloves to wear for the Funky Monkey but never actually took them to the monkey bars to try out, and I’ll be damned if I slipped off the first bar I touched with those things, almost hitting my head on the wooden base we started on. Yes, I’m serious.
Take it Seriously
I can say this because I saw some of my friends struggle who decided to celebrate before the race instead of after. Take. It. Seriously. It’s 12 friggin’ miles of obstacles, for Christ’s sake. Carb load the night before for stamina. Drinks lots and lots and lots of water so you don’t cramp. Take a few days off from the gym those few days before so your body’s got time to recover. Get plenty of sleep so you’re well rested. Eat a hearty breakfast the day of to get you going. Your body will cramp and spasm and hate you if you show up not prepared and the only thing worse than not doing a Tough Mudder is quitting one.
Focus on Strength
I spent most of my time training for the cardio part of the course and I’m glad I did, but I wish I had spent more time strength training. There were several obstacles that I was unable to finish because I didn’t have enough upper body strength. At the end of the day, training to run 9 miles straight does little good because the obstacles are spaced about a half mile from each other, and a lot of time you’ll end up walking those gaps because you’re so exhausted.
Be Choosy with Your Team
I don’t mean hold tryouts, calm down. I just mean that you need to know what your goals are and make sure you have like-minded teammates. If you’re going to have fun, make sure half your team doesn’t plan to leave you at the start line as they try to make time, and vise-versa. The size of your team is important too. We had about 8 or 9 people on our team which was GREAT, but it also meant that competing for time was out of the question because we spent so much time getting our entire team through an obstacle. I also noticed a few people who came solo that were having to wait at an obstacle for a stranger to help them. And yes Hercules, you will need help (like it or not) getting through a good portion of the obstacles. In my opinion, the perfect team size would be 3 or 4 people.
I’m just throwing this out there as a bonus. Most Tough Mudder events are several days long and will offer a discount (like a HUGE discount) to participants who volunteer one day. I believe some of my friends got to compete for just $20 while I paid a good $150 for the same exact experience. If you can volunteer on day one and run on day two, you’ll also get the opportunity to scope out the course and see how others are handling obstacles. Win. Win.
My last piece of advice, sign up for another!