Sure, you could just show up on race day and go for it, but your team will only progress as fast as its slowest member. Below are 10 tips to get you to the finish line in good form, so there are no sorry references to you as the weakest link.
10. Avoid cotton
“You’re gonna be wet, you’re going to be fully submerged at some point, and it’s going to be cold,” Thom says. Stay away from cotton, which will soak up the water and mud, dragging you down and keeping you chilled. Instead, opt for materials that wick away moisture, like Dri-FIT or COOLMAX, and fit closely to the body to reduce chafing. That said, there is no dress code, and costumes are encouraged, so if you want to go shirtless or wear a tutu, do it. Just remember to bring a change of clothes so you can enjoy the post-event party dry and warm.
“If you lack the cardio aspect of conditioning, you’re gonna struggle,” says Nix. There’s no rule against walking, but if you want to finish strong, you’ll have to train to run. The events incorporate 10 to 12 miles of running up and down mountains, across mud, and through obstacles—i.e. not in a straight line. Tough Mudder says you should be able to run five miles, Nix recommends working up to eight, and Thom recommends 10. The first half of our 12-week training plan will focus on tuning in your cardio.
8. Wear gloves
“A good pair of gloves with open tips so the water drains out of them will help you grab onto things when you’re wet and doing the obstacles,” says Patterson. Weight lifting or cycling gloves will protect your hands and improve your grip on obstacles like monkey bars or rope climbs. Several competitors swear by Mad Grip gloves with the fingertips cut off.
7. Enlist friends
“Most importantly, get yourself a crew of awesome friends—people who are gonna laugh when they fall, and get back up,” Patterson says. Put your team together early. That way, you can help each other through workouts. The typical team size is between five and 10 people. If you can’t convince anyone to join you, don’t fret. “If you’re alone, you’ll end up joining a team at the first obstacle,” says Patterson. “People who didn’t know each other before they started have made lifelong friends from having done a Tough Mudder together.”
6. Train outside
Tough Mudder requires functional strength to lift yourself over walls, carry a log, or slither under barbed wire. Create muscle memory by imitating these movements outdoors with plyometric exercises. “Don’t sit at the air-conditioned or heated gym and do bench presses and curls,” Thom says. “Mimic obstacles. Go to your local playground and climb around on the monkey bars. Get out in the fresh air, run up a hill, or climb a freaking tree.”
5. Get wet
It will be cold. Don’t let event day be the first time you face the mind-numbing shock of plunging into icy liquid. “Train in the elements as much as possible,” Nix says. That includes training outside on cold mornings and in the rain. Or you could do what Thom did in his now infamous Tough Mudder training video (below), and start your workout by dumping a bucket of cold water over your head.
4. Wear old, grippy shoes
“Wear an old pair of sneakers, especially a pair that has trail treads,” Patterson says. Pick a pair that isn’t completely beat, but that you don’t mind getting permanently stained.
Every registered Tough Mudder gets a fundraising page to raise money for the Wounded Warrior Project, a non-profit organization that provides services to injured service members to help them transition between active duty and civilian life. If you raise more than $150, you’ll get a $25 discount on your registration fee. To date, Mudders have raised over $2.3 million for the organization.
2. Embrace the insanity
Conquering the unknown is part of what bonds Tough Mudders together, and every race has one mystery obstacle that you can’t prepare for by looking at the course map. You will fall, you’ll look ridiculous, and at some point, you’ll probably be scared. Enjoy it. People will be watching. “After the race, we’ll grab a beer, and stand and laugh as people come through Electroshock Therapy,” Thom says.
1. Don’t stress
If for some reason you don’t want to complete an obstacle (ex: you can’t swim, and the obstacle requires jumping off of a platform into a pond), it’s OK. You can run around if need be. Just know that to qualify for the World’s Toughest Mudder, a 24-hour challenge in which competitors complete as many loops of a Tough Mudder course as possible, you should be able to do all of the obstacles.