They don’t call it the “premiere obstacle course series in the world” for nothing. Tough Mudder, a 10-12 mile endurance challenge designed by British Special Forces, is a lethal combination of rugged terrain, military-style obstacles (like crawling through cargo nets), and mud. Lots of mud. People who participate in Tough Mudders—which take place in cities all over the world—often go to pretty crazy extremes in an effort to simulate aspects of the course. And One Mudder loyalist in particular, Andy Thom, is actually a Tough Mudder trainer who does just that. He let us in on six crazy ways to prep yourself for the race.
1. Car Pulling and Pushing
When Thom is training aspiring Mudder participants, he attaches them to his Chevy Trailblazer. Really. One person sits in the driver’s seat and pumps the brakes every once in a while to give the puller/pusher a bit of momentum. “It really strengthens your legs like you wouldn’t believe,” he says. “Some of the courses, like the one in the Poconos, are up ski slopes. That will just blast your quads. We don’t have the luxury of having ski slopes here, so we have to simulate it. Once you get the car going, it’s really not that hard.” Sure.
2. Running Barefoot
Thom has been a huge fan of “minimalist” running for years. “By going on barefoot runs outside, it gives you an advantage as far as your form goes,” he says. “Shoeless running is less hammering on your joints, and you absorb each footfall better. Mudders are almost 90 percent running, so you need to be prepared for that.”
3. Harness Yourself to a Tire
“We have tires of different sizes and a harness that attaches to a chain wrapped around the tire,” says Thom. “Then, we crawl.” The motion correlates to some of the crawling obstacles that Tough Mudder has, but Thom insists that overkill is the best preparation. “We take it to the Nth degree. Instead of crawling 50 feet like you would in the Mudder, we crawl a half mile. It’s a tough workout.”
4. Belly Crawl In a River
Many aspects of the Mudder involve freezing cold water, like the obstacle they call an “Arctic Enema,” which involves swimming through a “floating iceberg abyss.” In order to prep for the temperature, Thom suggests the following: when running trails, jump into a creek and belly crawl 50 feet upriver. When you’ve emerged from the cold water, get back out and run. “Sometimes it’s in the low 40s, and when you get out and run, you have to keep your core warm,” he says. “You want to expect the worst.”
5. Run in the Rain
If you don’t have a river at your disposal, Thom recommends going for a run when it’s pouring. “This is when you need to go!” he says. “It will teach you to become more tolerant of miserable situations. Even little things in life like waiting in line. You become more patient in misery.”
6. Lunges with 40-Pound Trashcans
At Thom’s training facility, Mustache Man Training, he forces those enrolled in bootcamp to do lunges around the building’s three-quarter-mile perimeter. But that’s not all. “We grab some large 40-pound trash cans filled with water and do walking lunges around the building holding them. Then, every 8-10 steps you do tricep dips on the cans or 10 pushups,” he says. “It makes you want to walk away and cry. Mostly because it takes so long. But it teaches you the endurance you’ll need.”
Interested in competing in a Tough Mudder? Find out more about the race here.