An Insane Review of Tough Mudder. Awesome Pictures And Tips to Beating This Course!

tough mudder review

Finally it’s happened. I have completed one of the most challenging mud runs in the world: Tough Mudder.

For months I was waiting to compete in this course and after finally doing it, I am ready to fully review it for you guys and let you know how to beat it.

Many of the obstacles took me by surprise, mainly at how intelligently they were designed, with their purpose not really to test your strength, but your ability to work with friends and other Tough Mudders to complete them.

I had previously written on the many obstacles people would face on Tough Mudder here, and before I partook in this event, I had studied them and had a strategy planned. Well when the time came, about half the strategies worked while some required that I improvise. 

7 things I totally got right for this race:

1. I definitely wore the RIGHT shoes.

My recommended shoe model was the Salomon Speed Cross 3. It still is.

2. Wearing a lot of compression clothing was also the right call.

It helped keep me warm and protected me from anything that could have been inside the mud as well as the electrical wires as even when I got zapped, it didn’t hurt as much if it capped my skin. Everything I had suggested people wear to these events carried me through this race.

3. I was pretty prepared physically!

Despite not finishing some obstacles that I’ll go over, it wasn’t because of a lack of strength but because I didn’t have the right technique, a mistake I’ll fix the next time I do Tough Mudder, but overall the workouts I had planned for this race ended up helping me a lot. 

My cardio was definitely more than enough and the only area I lacked was just doing more squats and leg workouts. I had also taken several cold showers before the race. On the day of it, the weather was cloudy with a little drizzle happening throughout the day and it was between 50-60 degrees. 

4. I ate the right things before the race happened.

I had 5 cooked eggs and ate a vegetable mix of spinach, arugula and other plants. I drank some tea also. Prior to the race, I had also drank some natural ginger tea I had made. This was to ensure my immune system was strong throughout the race.

On the race, we were fortunate to have nearly each mile include not just a drink of water (and even a sports drink!), but in some cases foods such as bananas and pieces of energy bars. 

5. I used the right GoPro.

Specifically the GoPro Hero 4 Black. Most of the pictures you’ll see here were taken by it. Also get yourself a chest and head strap if you want to take it with you, I wore both!

6. I had an awesome team. 

One thing that is synonymous with Tough Mudder is team work as I would learn. I didn’t just have 3 other amazing people with me, but I was also humbled at how great the other participants were in helping everyone out. It wasn’t even a matter of favor, it was just the thing everyone was happy to do.

No one got turned down when they needed help and every time you reached out, a hand was always there to help you:

tough mudder photo everest

And let me say that obstacle is called Everest and it was one of the many fun ones I’ve tried.

7. I made the right choice in picking this event. 

Tough Mudder was one of the final hard races I had yet to try until this past Saturday. It gave me a good idea of how it compared to the other hard and easy races I’ve done before and now I can compare it to it’s most common competitor: The Spartan Race

And I wrote a comparison between the Spartan Race and Tough Mudder here.

What I got wrong about this race and what adjustments I will make and recommend to you:

Again here is the list of obstacles and details. The only problems we had were on the actual obstacles, so if you get confused by them here, the list will clear up what they look like.

1. I though one of the obstacles, the pyramid would be easy.tough mudder pyramid scheme..

Without a doubt, this was THE most technical obstacle in the race because you literally had to use most if not your entire team (or someone else’s team members) to help you get through it. Alone, it was impossible unless you had a rope, so here’s how we learned to do it:

The key to the pyramid obstacle is to have at least 4 people do it. Let’s imagine each person is labeled from 1-4. 

  • Persona 1 lays on their back on the pyramid. Person 2 climbs on top of them (person 1 needs to extend their knees and provide their shoulders for person 2 to step on). 
  • Then person 3 needs to get on top of both persons 1 and 2 and get on top of person 2’s shoulders. 
  • Then the last person (4) needs to climb on top of all these people, but this is where the trick to beating the pyramid is most important:
  • Person 4 will likely be able to reach the top of the pyramid by then, however, they shouldn’t climb over and finish the obstacle because then the problem is you still have at least 3 other team members who are stuck.
  • Instead, to beat the pyramid obstacle, do this: Person 4 who is at the peak of the obstacle has to hold on to the top (Have other people at the top hold you as well for extra grip). Then person 1, the one at the bottom, will climb on top of person 2 and 3, then finally 4 to reach and pass the obstacle.
  • After that, the next person at the bottom, now person 2, climbs over person 3 and then 4.
  • Then person 3 climbs over 4 and at the final stage, person 4 climbs over, completing the obstacle.
  • Should you have more than 4 people, just have the 5th person and anyone after that just climb over the 4 original people laid out on the pyramid, when there’s only the original 4 left, just repeat the same climb upward. 

2. The tube obstacle was not scary at all. 

5

What is the tube? Well it’s a small dark tube you have to climb through. Several Tough Mudder events had different variations of this. In some, you had half of it filled with water, in others you had to climb up it, sometimes down, but in the 2016 one I did, you had to sit head first into the tube and use a rope to slide down it. 

Now what was I scared of? Well I was a little bit claustrophobic prior to it, but what I got wrong was how much space there actually was inside this tube when I got in.

3. I should have practiced swinging from one monkey bar to another. 

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Another constantly changing obstacle is the one where you have to climb up a gradually increasing in height monkey bar up and then down. But they changed it this year and had you climb it, then swing or reach to grab a movable pole, then use that pole to grab onto a decreasing in height pole and scale it down.

While I practiced climbing monkey bars a lot and really developed a lot of resilience, I underestimated just how slippery the transition from one pole to the other would be and that’s where I slipped and fell into the water. 

As a result, what I recommend practicing when you are good at monkey bars and have excellent grip is to still scale the monkey bars wherever you practice them, but learn to skip a bar and/or swing and let go both arms to grab onto the other (usually one holds onto the next one you grab).

This will help your grip get stronger and help your mind get over the fear of grabbing it in the race. 

4. Mud mile could have been easier if I just did “this”.

So basically mud mile was 3 different variations of crawling, climbing and walking over piles of mud. The first one was us jumping through trenches, the second part was crawling through very deep mud and the third was just walking over puddles.

Now the second part, the deep mud area was much more difficult if you tried to step slowly through it. I almost guarantee you’d lose your shoes there if you tried that. The way they made it was that you had to crawl to get over it, BUT someone told my uncle, and then he told me that if you run quickly through on your tippi toes, that would get you over it fast.

5. My Gopro rocked, but I should have taken a few more of “these”.

Apparently lots of people lose their GoPros in Tough Mudder and I think I know one of the reasons why…

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One of the ways to attach your GoPro either to your head or chest is to use a special strap, BUT the strap comes with a holder for the camera which you tie in place with a special screw. I had 2 of those screws with me on the race, one for the head and chest and I lost them both because as I went through the course, I would unscrew the camera to check things and each time, there would be more mud piling in the creases, which weakened the hold of the screw.

Eventually I ended up losing BOTH of them and had to hold the camera or give it to someone else to record, otherwise, I’d risk losing it. So the tip is to take at least 5 or more of these screws with you and when possible, WASH the area where you put the screw to remove any mud to improve the hold it will have. These screws are cheap, but they protect an expensive investment!

6. When going on the “King of Swings”…

You can actually reach the bell if you stretch out with one hand before letting go of the pole.

tough mudder king of the swings

Most people on this obstacle let the momentum of their swing launch them towards the bell. Unfortunately, I tried this and I failed at hitting the bell.

However, one of our teammates tried a different strategy, swung himself on the pole, and just at the moment when the pole reached it’s final point before swinging back, reached out with one hand and whacked the bell successfully, then let go and fell into the water.

So apparently there is enough distance between the end of the pole at it’s final point before it swings back and the bell for you to reach it. 

CAUTION:

Be careful NOT to swing back and let go, otherwise you can crash into the area where people are standing on. I saw a few people do this and almost break their necks. Swing forward and if you’re unsure, at least let go when going forward rather than going back.

Should you freak out, start to swing back, don’t let go then, wait until the momentum carries you back forward before letting go!

7. Work your leg muscles, otherwise they’ll hurt like mine do now.

I really though I’d learned my lesson after the Spartan Race so I figured I’d have a similar problem in Tough Mudder, the problem being so many uphill climbs that it would cause my legs to hurt the next day, a lot.

So I did a lot of squats, walked up a lot of stairs instead of taking elevators and hoped it would be enough. Well, I should have done more!

While my legs don’t hurt now as much as they did after the Spartan Race, they still hurt a ton. Luckily I learned that a foam roller would help shorten the pain length so if you also have muscle sores particularly in the legs, the foam roller will be your best friend…

Overall, how did Tough Mudder 2016 rank with the other races I’ve done?

It was a fantastic race. The obstacles like I said were really well designed in many areas and again, I can’t stress how much I loved the team element. 

If you enjoy participating with other people in fun events like these and you’re in shape, do Tough Mudder. Do it carefully, slowly and have a great time!

Next up, my team and I will be doing the Spartan BEAST, a 12 mile race. By the way, Tough Mudder was 10 miles for us.

Update: The Spartan Beast was done!

Another update: In 2017, I completed another Tough Mudder (my second one). And in that one, I saw different obstacles and even had a major injury. But I still loved that race, though not as much as the first one I tried here.

32 thoughts on “An Insane Review of Tough Mudder. Awesome Pictures And Tips to Beating This Course!”

  1. I’ve always wanted to do a tough mudder but I don’t live near the event.

    I like how you broke it down so nicely. Explained everything, including your triumphs and failures. RESPECT.

    Reading your review made me want to do it even more, and now I think I’m going to have to make a bigger effort.

    Keep up the good work and good luck on your next run I’m sure with your knowledge and break down, you shouldn’t have a problem on the next one at all.

    • Thanks Simon, every new race I do teaches me more about the skills needed to make it easier and faster to complete next time, although I always recommend that people focus on doing these events slower and safer instead of faster. They are fun, but they can be dangerous.

  2. I always knew that Tough Mudder was hard, but I didn’t know it was this challenging. I definitely give you credit for doing thing kind of thing.

    I enjoyed reading your post, and I like how everything was laid out…especially the part about the pyramid obstacle.

    Good luck with the training for the next one!

  3. I couldn’t do the Tough Mudder near my home this summer due to an ankle injury, so my son filled in for me and ran it with my daughter. They were in the first heat and except for the very top guys, finished ahead of the entire field.

    This year, the race in Slippery Rock Pennsyvania was run in early September in 80 – 90 degree temperatures. It was quite challenging, but not as slippery as your race must have been.

    I have taken the plunge from funky monkey! I needed to focus my training on grip strength a lot more than what I did.

    Great review!

  4. It’s incredible how you took on such a gauntlet. As if a 10-mile race wasn’t challenging enough, the obstacles you had to put yourself up against are really intimidating. Quite frankly, I don’t know if I’d be able to push myself to finish something as challenging as that, and I consider myself to be relatively athletic.

    Also, kudos on putting it together for us readers. This will definitely help out the next bunch of folks who might be looking into taking on the next Mudder Race.

  5. I have always been intimidated by these races! I couldn’t see how it would be fun at all. Then I watched a couple of my siblings participate in one and I started to change my mind.

    So now I’m looking into it and hoping to give a shot next year. I do have to be careful because of past leg surgeries…but with the right training I know I can do it.

    • Keep in mind that there’s a lot of explosive movements necessary on parts of Tough Mudder to do things like scale a hill/mountain or jump on a wall so that might put a lot of pressure on your legs Trina. You may want to test how resilient your legs are on an easier mud run.

  6. Hi, I have always thought mudruns look so much fun and I know they are a test of your physical and mental toughness, but it also must be so rewarding when you accomplish it. I always wanted to do one for years but never really said that’s it I will do it in….. Now, since seeing your site I might have to set a date when I will do it and hopefully the summer of “2017” sounds like a plan to me 🙂 I am in NJ so I would have to first see where the closest one is at and then go and DO IT!!!!! Thanks, for starting a fire in me and pushing me to accomplish this goal. I love anything that’s a challenge!!!
    Carol

    • NJ is one of the most active states for mud runs Carol and I would consider registering right now for a 2017 event since the price gets bigger the closer the race gets.

  7. OK I will have to do it now and will look into where they are at I am closest to NYC just on the other side of the Hudson River, so I will check both areas, thanks for giving me the push I needed 🙂

  8. Wow. That race looks insane but fun! I have often wondered about what goes on at one of those races as I have friends who have done it. I’m not sure if I could be successful with some of the obstacles you showed. Wow. At least now, if I took the ‘plunge’, I’d know what to wear and how to prepare. Just wondering, how long did it take you to finish and how did you place?

  9. Wow, I’ve never done a Tough Mudder, but know many people who have, so kudos to you guys cause that course looks CRAZY! That tunnel looks soooo scary (I am extremely claustrophobic), I don’t know how you did that, lol. It’s really interesting to hear first hand accounts and reviews of the Tough Mudder. I’ve always been interested, but never actually attempted to be in the race. That tunnel is just to scary, lol!

  10. Dude, nice! Well done. Always wanted to do one of these, but my fitness hasn’t been up to snuff. I’ve been working on it, though, and decided my ultimate goal is to be able to not only endure an event like this, but to excel in it. Any workout routines/tips?

  11. Hello there,

    I am sure you will perform much better for the next race now you know what went wrong. But GoPro? I don’t think I have that as a factor which contribute to a success. I am planning to have a city marathon this year, possibly New York. Perhaps I could use your tip here on getting at GoPro. Cheers!

    • Well GoPros help document these awesome things well and when I look back at the videos and pictures, I see where I could have done more or been more careful about the obstacles.

  12. Wow, I have heard of the spartan race and the tough mudder before but this was the most thorough guide I have ever seen.

    I especially liked the advice about the king of swings and the pyramid. Very detailed and the images made it a lot easier to understand what you were talking about.

    The tough mudder might have to go on my bucket list. It looks like a lot of fun.

    What did you personally think the most difficult obstacle was and why?

    Also, for your training, what were the goals that you were working for and after running it, what would you recommend as workout goals to be able to do well in the race?

    • The bucket brigade in the Spartan Race was the hardest, If not direct obstacles, then the uphill climbs. My workouts were enough for cardio, but I needed more weight lifting to handle the heavy obstacles that involved carrying stuff.

  13. Okay, I have always wanted to do a mud run, but I am not so sure anymore LOL. I definitely don’t want to get zapped by an electrical wire..I want to know where this was? You gave a LOT of really great information, especially on the pyramid obstacle. I would also think that would not be so hard. I think I would feel claustrophobic in the tube for sure. I think I will stick to being a spectator. Awesome job!

  14. Congratulations on completing the Tough Mudder. I know it was a hard process but it seems like you trained hard for the event and I’m sure it did make it easier for you.

    Just think how sore your legs would be if you didn’t train as hard as you did for this event. The team work your team used goes to show when individuals work together with others they can achieve greater goals than trying to do it by themselves.

    Chad

  15. I’ve never tried a mud run but would like to in the near future. It’s a combination of fitness and fun I think. My wife has done a few and loves them. Your tips definitely help those like me who might want to try a mud run. I never really thought about having to research technique on some of the obstacles. Definitely being prepared helps, so thanks for the tips like what type of clothing, shoes, and even what to eat before that you provided. Thanks for sharing!

    • No problem Jeremy, you’re not the first person who mentioned having their spouse/partner do these races and you being interested in them too. You should try it, it may improve your bonding, while both being extremely dirty 🙂

  16. I have always wanted to compete in Tough Mudder. I see people wearing their “Finisher” t-shirts and it makes me jealous! Although miles and miles of being wet, cold and muddy might not be for me.

    From what I understand it is actually more mentally demanding than anything. Sure, you have to be in good physical condition, but you also have to be in the right place mentally. Your pictures are great, actual, real pictures of the event, that is a great touch. Can’t wait to hear about your Spartan BEAST race. Do you think you will compete in Tough Mudder again? Do you prefer the obstacle courses, to just straight running courses?

  17. I love your break down of the event and the tips that you gave. I have been wanting to do a Tough Mudder for a while now but had to put getting in shape for it on hold when I got pregnant with my son. How much time do you think would be needed to prepare for this event?

    • It depends on the location of the event. If it’s in the mountains, then you need to be quite fit, if not, then being in medium or above shape is good. But it’s also subjective. I will say that if you can run at least a mile, lift 20 or more pounds and walk with it for 100 meters without getting tired, climb a rope and do body weight exercises quite easily, then you should be OK. With these types of goals, analyze your current physical shapes and ability and try to reach that.

  18. Very interesting information. I’ve always played with the idea of getting into off-course races including mud runs. I’ve known some people that have done them but haven’t committed yet myself. I think you’ve given a lot of good tips and information regarding how to be successful and overcome some of your shortcomings. Are the shoes that you recommended getting available anywhere or do they have to come from a specialty-type store? Great stuff!

  19. Well done on a successful tough mudder. Love the picture of you and your teammates. It really is a combination of everything you mentioned. You have to be physically fit, have cardio, dress properly, and teamwork is crucial. Getting it done learning from your mistakes and teaching others in the process. Very awesome keep it up man!

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