How to Train for a Tough Mudder

The Tough Mudder started appearing in 2010 in the United States and it was created by Will Dean and Guy Livingstone. In my opinion it’s a copy of the original ” Tough guy ” race in the United Kingdom.

I took on the Tough Mudder in June of 2012 in Whistler, BC. Although this post is about how to train for a tough mudder, I didn’t change my training coming up to this race because I stick to a lot of the fundamentals that work anywhere.

First off we need to be realistic of your starting point. If you work at a desk all day, have a horrible diet and haven’t gone for a jog since 2005 you’ve got some work to do for this event. The truth is that the Tough Mudder isn’t that crazy. It will test you in a lot of ways, but if you are determined to complete it you will go far without being in combat ready shape.

The Tough Mudder covers about 10-12 miles of obstacles and it’s made to test it’s participants (You) mentally and physically. Everyone has a fear and they try and address all of them in this race.

This has to be number one because if you can’t run 10 – 12 miles then you can’t finish the race never mind get through all the obstacles they will throw at you.

There is quite a few obstacles and you will probably find each one will get back logged with people and you could be waiting 5 or 10 minutes to take it on. Now that will work in your favor because even if your endurance isn’t great you can push for less then a mile and then get a long break.

If you have access to any trails or wilderness then that’s where you want to do your training. Each course will vary with how many hills or how tough the terrain is… I have yet to see one on pure concrete.

Start running at your own ability. If your overweight start by walking and mix in running until you can comfortably jog for a mile at a time. Those of you who are fit and are good runners, work on improving your time and concentrate more on the strength aspect which we will talk about next.

The tough mudder is a military style obstacle course created by British Special Forces. The military isn’t based around bicep curls it focuses on functional strength and body weight movements to get things done. This is how you should be training for your first mudder.

Exercises such as push ups, pull ups, kettle bell swings, rows, dead lifts and squats were a primary part of my own training for the tough mudder. The course as a whole will challenge every muscle in your body, so variety in your training will help a lot in your preparedness.

My training prior to the mudder:

  • Monday – Upper body
  • Tuesday – Trail Running
  • Wednesday – Full body circuits
  • Thursday – Trail Running
  • Friday – Lower Body

If I was to train for this race exclusively and on my own, I would have approached it with more circuit training and an overall higher level of conditioning. Generally, you and your friends will get together and tackle this race, it’s more about everyone finishing together than being the fastest.

Other Training Routines:

I was looking around online and found a few training routines I thought would be good to share.


When it comes to nutrition the rules don’t change much for the Tough Mudder. Ditch the boxed garbage you’ve been eating and start shopping the perimeter of the grocery store for the real food.

Start spending more time cooking and buying fresh fruits, vegetables and leaner meats. The idea is to stick with whole foods that will give your body the materials it needs to repair and sustain itself while you demand a lot from it with all your training.

Don’t be intimidated by the idea of cooking your own food, some of the best meals don’t require more then a single pan or pot and minimal ingredients. Grab a cook book and some whole foods and start fueling your body properly.

The final 100 meters of the race involves a whole bunch of wires with an electrical charge, all that stands between you and the sweet taste of success (And a free beer). You might be beaten up and just physically and mentally done, but it will be all worth it when you cross that finish line.

If you approach the tough mudder training determined to finish and you put in the work, you will accomplish something you can look back on for the rest of your life with pride. Get out there, conquer your fears and get your free beer!

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