How to Train For a Mud Run to be Ready For it!

I’ve seen some people go through mud runs like it was nothing. I have also seen a lot of people almost pass out on them because they didn’t know how to train for them.

how to train for a mud run

In the above picture, I was going past a new obstacle in the Spartan Race called the Bender. It required balance and mainly upper body strength, but because there’s such a wide range of obstacles that require different training regiments and so many different events, what is the right way to train for these events?

There are a few ways actually and we’ll cover them, but I’ve done these runs with different people and all of them had different ways they were preparing for them and it also happens to be that there’s different levels of difficulty for mud runs too, so naturally, the harder it is, the better you’ll need to train for it (I’ll give you my experiences training for easy and hard ones).

The good news is that the training regiment I’ll give you will help you complete most if not all the different types of mud runs there are out there. But first, let me explain that to come up with this list of training methods, my teammates and I had to figure it out and we made mistakes…

Let’s look at how my teammates and I trained for the different events we did:

One of us would go to the gym a few days a week, lift basic weights and use the treadmill. I did 2 races with this man: MudmanX and a 5K Spartan Run. How did he do on each race day?

Not very well…

Not only did he look exhausted before finishing the first kilometer in each run, but he also had to stop frequently to catch his breath. On the 5K, he asked us to go ahead while he finished the course at his own pace and he did, but we had to wait for him for a bit. MudManX he was able to finish as well, but that one was significantly easier.

Another one of our team members ran the 8 mile Spartan Race. He mainly prepared by doing long jogs and riding his bicycle long distances. How’d he do? 

Very well on just about every single obstacle and the whole course, except the areas which required him to use his upper body strength. 

My cousin who was also a member practiced by being on a swim team. We also did the Spartan Race with him. 

He completed the whole race and almost every single obstacle. He even did about 100 burpees along the way on the obstacles he didn’t finish. The only problem he had was a cramp which hit him around mile 4. 

The one member besides myself who has been present in every race is my uncle. His preparation consisted of doing post work jogs and attending cross fit classes a few times a week. Out of all our members, he was the one who was able to finish every race and feel great. On the Spartan Super, he was the one who didn’t have any post race day injuries or sore muscles. He did also get a cramp like my cousin. 

And finally, the last member was myself. To prepare, I actively do martial arts and I felt this would be enough. I don’t do much weight lifting other than when I wrestle, but that’s people, not weights. I also do upper body exercises a lot. 

On all the races except one (The Spartan Super), I completed them easily and felt like I could go through another lap. But the Spartan Super was the one which showed me I needed to add more variety to my exercises:

I needed to do more squats. Because I have knee problems, I avoid them, but uphill hiking was part of the races. Also carrying large weights was difficult for me because I wasn’t used to doing it.

Which training regiment worked best?

I wrote that in order to beat the toughest mud runs requires that you’re able to do these 10 different workouts. We’ll see how many of these workouts my team and I did and you’ll see that it directly related to how well we did!

As you saw, everyone except my uncle seemed to have holes in their regiments. 

  • For our first member, he just was not prepared at all. Out of those 10 workouts, he might have had 2 or 3. Gym training and training outside are very different things. Jogging on a treadmill is a lot easier than jogging outside, and certainly much easier than jogging through obstacles. Weight lifting prepared him for carrying things, but none of his workouts prepared him for the cardio you need.
  • Our other member, because of his good cardio from jogging and bicycle riding, was fine on the cardio end, but when it came down to strength exercises and obstacles he suffered. Out of the 10, he had about 4. His cardio was the biggest reason he finished the course.
  • For my cousin, he seemed to do very well because of his swimming history. Swimming is a great workout because it trains every part of your body. Of the 10, swimming is not on the list, but because it trains the whole body, you can become good at it. I figure he had about about 8 or 9.
  • My uncle had 9 or 10 because cross fit happens to have a big diversity in workouts and many of them were similar on the runs we did, except they were dirtier. 
  • For me, I had about 7 or 8 (good cardio and upper body strength mainly) but it was squats and weight lifting that I suffered in. 

You need 5 different types of physical attributes to complete these events:

  • You need to have good cardio.
  • You need have decent strength training abilities. 
  • You need to do weight lifting. 
  • You need to be able to withstand long hikes (especially with Spartan Races like the Beast).
  • And you need to be able to do all of them in a training session and for a long period of time, at least a few hours. 

The 10 workouts I’ve covered above are going to help strengthen those 4 attributes. 

Are there any exercise programs that’ll help with mud runs?

Yes, if you can find any kind of program that covers at least a few of the required workouts, you should do them. Here are a few exercise programs that are excellent:

Crossfit, Insanity, Mixed Martial Arts, Swimming classes and Kettlebell classes. 

Mud runs require that you have all areas of your physical preparation down and those programs help. There is a lot of diversity in these events where if you only practice one kind of workout, you won’t be prepared for another.

For example, if you just practice jogging, know that mud runs will not have you do it on concrete where you’re used to it, but through hard areas and keep making you work different muscles. The more you practice different exercises and get used to mixing and being comfortable with them, the better your whole body will build. 

And always start your training months before a mud run takes place. You need time to get used to the intensity.

Physical abilities are good, but you also need gear to compliment that:

Why? Because being strong is good, but it won’t help you if you slip. Wear stuff that’ll protect you from that and help your strength work for you. When I switched to the sneakers I still wear for my mud runs, the difficulty in hiking and bypassing the obstacles was significant and I saved a lot of energy because I was MORE comfortable.

5 thoughts on “How to Train For a Mud Run to be Ready For it!”

  1. You are so right. It is far easier to run on a treadmill than it is to run over rough terrain outside. Even riding a bike in the gym is easier than doing it outside.

    Cross training seems to be the best indoor option, but how do you know that you are ready for a mud run. Are there certain tests that you can do before you enter the race to make sure?

    • You can do simulations of the event if you have space in your neighborhood Michel, but until you actually participate in one of these, you won’t know. I always tell people to start with an easy 5K event.

  2. Wow I didn’t know that mud runs would be this tough. I have seen some of my friends doing it and I just thought it was some type of running.

    I have been wanting to start doing something like this for 2016 to have a goal to work for.

    I’m a thai boxer. Were you fine with your cardio just by Martial Arts? Feels like thai boxing is a lot of interval cardio. Even though I train 4 days a week I don’t think I could run for 8km without taking a lot of breaks to recover.

    Marcus

    • Yeah the cardio was fine, it’s when you had to combine it with weight lifting and going uphill that it was tested Marcus. That’s why you need more for these events.

  3. Hey Vitaliy,

    Great post. I remember doing tough mudder back home in Aus. To be honest it was brutal, so much endurance required to finish this event, something I overlooked and it took me by surprise. Even though I’ve been a personal trainer for 5 years now, it was hard! But a huge accomplishment when it’s done with a whole team.

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