How to prepare for a Tough Mudder event

In 2011, just a few weeks after I ran the Boston Marathon, a group of friends at my gym convinced me to do this thing that none of us had ever heard of... a Tough Mudder. Since my first experience as a participant, I have had the pleasure of helping a number of athletes reach goals of competing in Tough Mudders and other events in that same vein.

It's that time of year, and I'm starting to see more and more athletes with an interest in these types of competitions. This post is not actually about how to train for an adventure race, since your individual training is completely relative, and the type of training you utilize for an event like a Tough Mudder will greatly depend on your personal goals and objectives, as well as on your own athletic background.

This post is based on my own experience with adventure racing, advice I've received from others, and pointers I have given to numerous friends and clients preparing for Tough Mudders—I hope you'll use this post as a resource for what to expect on the day of your race. 

Your Team
First off, compete as a team. It's a lot more fun, and exceptionally difficult to complete the event on your own. I suggest racing in a group of no more than four people. The pacing and the endurance will vary from person-to-person, and it could hold you back or push you before you’re ready—keep it small. Do yourself a favor and team up with two or three others who have similar race goals. If you can finish a half marathon in under 90 minutes and have your sights set on a podium finish, it's probably best that you team up with like-minded athletes. If your two-fold goals are to 1) not break something, and 2) have a good time, you may not want to team up with Flash Gordon and the funky bunch. Keep these things in mind and understand that it's virtually impossible to do an adventure race without the physical support of others; leaving someone behind is not an option.  

Your Outfit
I suggest a long-sleeved, tight-fitting, wicking shirt and running tights or spandex for men and women—regardless of the season. If it's relatively warm, shorts and short sleeves/tank tops may be a bit more comfortable with regards to temperature, but in my experience, having your skin protected is far more important. During a Tough Mudder in Vermont, I watched one woman scale a wall in a short lil' pair of Lulus and leave a trail of blood as she demolished her legs on the way up.

For my first race, I wore an old pair of running tights that already had a rip, a long sleeved, surfing rash guard that I got for $3 at Goodwill, old running shoes and two pair of socks. I also wore light-weight, work gloves with a rubberized palm. Those were essential. With exception of the gloves, I trashed all of my clothing at the end of the event and donated my shoes at a shoe recycling booth that was set up near the finish line. This feels like an obvious statement, but I'm constantly surprised by folks—don't wear nice things, unless you like ruining your nice things. Also, layering is a bad idea. Don't do it. 

Next Week: Cassie takes a look at the obstacles you may face in your Tough Mudder event, with a piece of advice for negotiating each one.

Read more Sports Doc for Sports Medicine and Fitness.

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