How To Prepare for a Tough Mudder

Pull Up

So your friend from the office has told you how awesome Tough Mudders are, and  since you woke up all badass after re-watching Predator last night,  you’ve gone and  registered. Just remember that before you get the  head band and the beer you need to finish. That’s 12 miles of running and over a dozen obstacles mister. But registerer(er?)s remorse is for wee girls. You need to man up, collect your shit, and get yourself prepared. There’s a difference between running the whole way charging through the last obstacle  and crawling across the finish line all wounded and winded. The good news: avoiding  a whole world of hurt is not that complicated.

Ain't  got time to bleed
What he said…

How to prepare for a Tough Mudder

1) Get Ready to Run

Priorities people! The first thing to consider is fitness, and since a good chunk of a Tough Mudder involves running, you need to focus on that first. There are a lot of people who show up at the Tough Mudder completely jacked, thinking that at least one obstacle must involve a wesson oil pose-down. Strength matters, but this is much more of an endurance event. If you have never run before, start with small distances and work your way up to longer and longer runs. Don’t overdo it, even if you feel like you can run another 5 miles on day 1, because it isn’t just your cardio that you need to build up, it is the muscles in your ankles, legs and back that come from running distances over time. We all know how to run, but we aren’t all Forest Gump. Technique matters, and so does mixing up your training routine between distances, interval training and other activities. It’s worth getting a good running book and learning about some of the varied training methods. Daniels Running Method (yes, written by someone named Jack Daniels…no, not advocating a shot of bourbon every mile) is considered one of the best running books out there for training for  shorter and longer distances. It includes different training programs depending on needs  (color-coded red, white, blue and gold). It’s a book that’s good for beginners and experienced runners.


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2) Make Sure Your Back and Shoulders are Strong

While there is no need to look like Arnold, you will need to do some strength training, with a particular focus on your back, shoulders arms and even hands . Certain obstacles, like Everest and Funky Monkey definitely require strength in those areas, and that’s why a piece  of equipment we strongly advocate  is a home chin-up bar. It’s fairly easy to mount above a door at home, and almost as simple to bang out some chin-ups and pull-ups as you pass by.

Chin up bar
Body Press Wall Mounted Pull Up Bar

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3) Strengthen Your Core

Your core consists of a variety of muscles, including your abdominals, obliques, lower back, pelvis and hips. Core strength is an important part of your preparation for the Tough Mudder as you depend on these muscles to pull yourself up, over and through obstacles.   On top of this, core strength is important for the biomechanics of running, preventing  inefficient running postures that can tire you further over distance. TRX is an established workout system (developed in the military) that uses gravity and your own bodyweight to workout your entire body. What’s great about TRX is the fact that most of the exercises work your core as well as the targeted muscle group. TRX is not the only workout program that we advocate, but whatever program you choose should involve a good deal of exercises focused on building core strength.

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4) Plan Your Diet

You should consider this advice in three parts: 1) The training diet 2) The week before the event diet 3) The event diet. For your training diet you should eat real food, not processed powders. Carbs are of course important, but they should come from healthy sources like quinoa, yams, wild rice, beans and fruit.  All the components of a proper training diet deserve an article or a book to themselves. We recommend Performance Nutrition for Runners from Runner’s World magazine as a it not only covers diet essentials, but includes tips for customizing your running diet to your own needs, strategies for maintaining your running diet while dining out and even gives you the skinny on sports drinks.

Runner s World Performance Nutrition for Runners
Runner s World Performance Nutrition for Runners

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The week before the event, try a variety of different breakfasts to see which one gives you the best combination of  energy and gastrointestinal stability…and by this we mean energy food that doesn’t give you the sh*ts. This way, you will have the winning breakfast formula on race day. Also, drink lots of water and increase your carb intake the days leading up to the race. Have a big bowl of pre-race pasta the night before. On the day of the race, eat your race breakfast and hydrate well. During the event, we actually suggest laying off water early on as too much water can lead to cramps. We suggest packing some race gels/jujubes in your pockets to give you an energy boost in the latter stages of the race. We prefer energy chews rather than gels, but it’s personal preference. Just choose some food that is easy for you to eat on the go.

Gu Chomps Strawberry
Gu Chomps Strawberry

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5)Get Geared Up

We encourage you to read our other articles on Tough Mudder Gear that you’ll need for the event itself, including bits dedicated to Tough Mudder Shorts and Tough Mudder Shoes. We won’t repeat all of our recommendations here, but if we had to advocate one thing in particular it would be good socks and good shoes. Get some shorts that don’t tear or fall off during the race, but once you have that checked off, spend the money on your feet. Your socks should be the quick drying, non-blistering type used by marathoners and other endurance racers. We are partial to Wigwams:

Wigwam Ironman Flash Pro
Wigwam Ironman Flash Pro

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The best Tough Mudder shoe is a trail shoe. Trail shoes have tough, grippy outsoles to help you over mud, rocks and obstacles. They have uppers that are abrasion and tear resistant and toe boxes that are larger and better protected than normal to avoid toe stubs and /or injuries from a stub. A popular choice amongst trail runners in the Salomon Men’s Speedcross 3 Trail though minimalist runners prefer the New Balance Men’s MT1010 Minimus Trail

Salomon Men's Speedcross 3 Trail Running Shoe

Salomon Men’s Speedcross 3 Trail Running Shoe

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6)Remember To Have Fun

Once all of your preparation is done, have fun. Remember that is is not a  race, but more of a social event that involves physical and mental challenges. It is definitely more fun with friends, so try to get some of them to sign up with you. If you want to get a sneak peak at some of the lessons you will learn during your Tough Mudder, check out the Top 10 Lessons Learned During a Tough Mudder.


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