Wednesday, 4 February 2015

First time Tough Mudders.

So you've taken the plunge and signed up for Tough Mudder, either because your friends challenged you or as someone I spoke to suggested because they were drunk one new years eve. So what's next, how do you prepare for one of the toughest things you'll ever do. The first thing you need to know is it will be 11 to 12 miles of either potentially bone dry cross country or something more akin to a water sodden, energy sapping bog, that will quite literally pull the trainers off your feet.

As with everything preparation is key, you don't need the fanciest trainers, or running gear, just something comfortable to wear on your feet that you don't mind getting covered in mud and filled with grit.

Event clothing:
My current kit for taking part consists of a compression top, which is a tight lycra t-shirt you can pick up for about £20, well worth having as there are pools of water that can be pretty cold and that's not including the Arctic Enema ice bath and this will help you retain heat in the manner of a wetsuit. A previous tough mudder finisher t-shirt but any quick drying running top will work just as well, the main thing is to ensure you stay relatively warm after being in water, or if it rains on the day. A pair of shorts, comfortable socks, a pair of trail running shoes, which have toe protection as well as supposedly good grip on the soles and a pair of gloves, a simple fingerless pair with a bit of padding should do the trick, you can get away without wearing them but they are useful to protect your palms, when you are helping people get over walls and they stand on your palms for a boost.

I wear a camelbak water bottle, there are water stations on the course but I like to carry my own supply, since hydration is very important, I also take energy gels with me just to give me a little boost around the 4 and 8 mile points, any running or fitness shop should have these, just find a flavour you like.

The one thing I can't stress enough is No Cotton, seriously, No Cotton, it will soak up the water and will not dry out (unless its a red hot day) it will weigh you down and keep you cold, which is the worst feeling to have when running around the course as your morale will sink through the floor and you will hate taking part. Trust me, I hated my first event because of cotton gear, so I didn't enjoy it as much as I could have. Another thing for the ladies, last year I saw a number of ladies wearing, yoga pants to take part, I'd suggest, unless you like showing off your legs and bottoms, where your yoga pants have worn away, don't wear them, a lot of the course will have you sliding down hills or crawling on your stomach, so thin material tends to wear through really easily.

Training:
For the training side of things, there are some obstacles you simply can't prepare for, you just have to go for it and hope for the best. I would suggest running, get as many miles under your feet as you can, start with a short distance if you've done no training or haven't ran in a while, perhaps 2-3 miles per run and build it around a mile more each week until you can do 12 in one run, speed isn't the point here, its stamina, you need to be able to complete the course, so being able to actually run 12 miles is important, it will also help with your recovery after the event as 12 miles plus obstacles takes a toll on an unprepared body.
You need to be able to pull yourself over walls and through mud, you will get help to get over things but ultimately, you need to have the strength to conquer Everest or the Hero walls, so get doing some push ups, or if you can get one, a chin up bar and start getting yourself lifted off the ground, again, take it a few at time and build up to as many as you can do in one go.
Finally stamina, this will mean you'll have the strength of will to get yourself around the course, so if you can find a fitness class or some kind of stamina building plan and get to it.

The Obstacles:
There are a variety of obstacle types at Tough Mudder events, I've broken them down into the various types.

Water based:
Arctic Enema - There is no preparation for this event outside of filling your bath with a lot of ice and water, this is cold and you simply get into the ice water and over the barrier in the middle and out again as quickly as you can.

Cage Crawl - You lie on your back and pull yourself though a trench of water using a cage to do this, my advice is to look over a shoulder to see where the next piece of wood is so that you don't bump your head.

Greased Lightning - A huge water slide into a pool of water, what's not to love about that.

King Of The Swingers - This has replaced Walk the plank and you now swing out and try and hit a bell before landing in a large plunge pool.

Island Hopping - You jump from floating platform to floating platform trying not to fall in the water, my advice is to reach for the next platform and get your feet onto it, or if you have really good balance try jumping from platform to platform.

Underwater Tunnels - Three sets of barrels placed on a body of water that you duck your head under, depending on the depth of the water and the temperature can occasionally be easy to do.

Strength based:
Balls To The Wall - Using a rope that can be quite slick with mud to get up a wall that's around 12-15 foot high, my advice get a good grip and don't look down, the back of the obstacle has lats you can climb down like a ladder.

Birth Canal - A new obstacle that has you pinned down and you have to fight your way through to reach the end, upper body strength seems like a must.

Boa Constrictor - A tight squeeze that's easy on the down tube but such a small space that you have to inch your way up the other side, my advice is to stick your feet into the grooves in the tube and use your forearms to pull yourself up.

Funky Monkey - This one needs good grip and a bit of momentum, my advice is to have dry hands and to try and keep hold.

Hangin’ Tough - A set of rings that you traverse like funky monkey except the rings are quite slick to the touch and its difficult to keep your grip.

Hero Walls - Very high walls that you need to be able to physically get yourself over after the initial boost from your team, my advice is to get some upper body strength training.

Hold Your Wood - This is now a 4 person team effort to carry a very large piece of wood around part of the course, previously it was small enough for one person to do this on their own.

The Hangover - These were previously the glory blades but they've increased the height and make it more of a team effort to get people over.

The Liberator - This one requires you to traverse a peg board using a lot of upper body strength and your feet to stabilise yourself.

Crawling based:
Mud Mile - Sometimes this is muddy, sometimes this is really muddy and forces you to crawl and get over mounds of mud with the help of others, my advice is to embrace the mud and have fun.

Kiss Of Mud - This has you crawling in the mud under barbed wire, with an addition of hay bails to crawl over this year.

Team work based:
Everest - Run towards the ramp at a steady sprint and keep running until you reach a hand and hold on for dear life helping them to help you up and over the top.

Pyramid Scheme - You need to stand on the shoulders of other people to get over this obstacle, which defines teamwork.

No training:
Cry Baby - This is tear gas, there is no training for this one.

Ring Of Fire - Slide down the firepole into a pool of water.

Electroshock Therapy - This one has no training you can do, you simply make it through as best you can, I normally get knocked out with this one but I have had static like shock going through, if you take it at speed and get knocked out, you will face plant, find your own way through this one.

So I've offered my thoughts and advice on Tough Mudder, the important thing is to enjoy the day and see what you're made of, then you can get your friends to take part and show them how much fun it is.