Mud Runs and obstacle races have been gaining popularity all over the world, and are a great way to keep fit whilst having plenty of fun. Unlike most other running type events, mud runs and obstacles races are all about teamwork, adventure, jumping in the mud and puddles rather than avoiding them! If you are a beginner wondering what mud runs and obstacle races are really like, here is all that you need to know about them.
About Muddy runs
A mud run and obstacle event begins just like any other race such as a 5k or 10k. The only difference, however, is that you will have to race through a series of obstacles – mud pits, monkey bars, crawling nets, climbing walls etc – spread out over the race course. The purpose of these obstacles is to challenge the participants both physically and mentally. Some of the most popular mud runs and obstacle races you can go to include Total Warrior, Tough Mudder and Spartan Race.
How to train for a 5k mud run
One of the first questions you might ask yourself is what kind of training plan you need for a mud or obstacle run. Training and preparation are vital to participate safely in an event like this, as there is a lot more involved than simply jogging. There is no a one-size-fits all training strategy - at the very least, you need to focus on improving your walking and running skills. Plan your training program according to the distance and the number of obstacles you will have to cover on race-day. Start off by jogging every day, and then slowly pick up your pace. Once you get the hang of it, you should start long distance running, and increase your running distances every week.
In addition to running, add some strength exercises – sit ups, push-ups or squats – to your training program to overcome the obstacles you will encounter on the race course. You will need good upper body strength in order to climb or pull yourself up some of the obstacles. Although you are unlikely to be able to train in the exact same conditions of the obstacle course race, you can practice for the event by crawling across monkey bars at a park or if you have a local rock climbing wall or center this can be a great way to train yourself for the climbs involved. Training on different terrains is essential - avoid sticking to roads and try to mix it up by going cross train such as grass, mud, woodland and even go jogging in the rain to get used to the inevitable cold and wet that will come from the puddles and water obstacles.
Obviously junk and processed foods are a big no when it comes to preparing for mud runs and obstacle courses. You'll need to be getting a diet that has good mix of carbohydrates and protein. You can get good carbs from sources such as brown rice, oats, wholemeal foods - essentially the less processed the better (which generally means avoiding 'white' foods - white rice, white bread, white sugar etc). That's not to say that 'white' foods will be bad for you, but you'll benefit more from the less processed foods.
Protein can be found in all manner of foods - meat being the biggest and easiest in general, along with dairy foods and plenty of vegan-friendly foods too. Chicken is the staple really as it has virtually no fat but plenty of protein, as does turkey. Red meats like steak are equally good at supplying protein, however the jury is still out on the longer terms effects of red meat. If eating meat is not your thing then you can also get plenty of protein from foods such as green peas, chickpeas, most varieties of nuts and seeds, beans and of course fish such as tuna and salmon.
Dairy foods such as milk, eggs, cheese and butter are also great sources of protein, but should be taken with a little moderation to avoid too much fat entering your diet. There are also a very large range of protein supplements and powders you can get which can you can take multiple times throughout the day as required to add extra protein to your diet. You also want to add in some fruit and vegetables to in order to keep fibre levels up and give you essential vitamins. Fruits can also be a great alternative to snacking too and will help ease a sugar crave whilst avoiding junk foods.
On the race day
As you've probably guessed by now, a mud run will leave you very messy and likely soaked too, so you'll want to wear light clothing that won’t slow down your running and will dry easily. Similarly, wear lightweight shoes that have a strong grip - though the combination of mud and water will make you slip around a lot anyway. you might also consider wearing gloves, elbow or knee pads too to try and reduce any injury, however most people don't as they tend to slow you down a bit. On the race course, assess the obstacles and figure out the best way to go about them. Observe your competitors to see which challenges are the most difficult and don't be afraid to ask for help from the marshals and other runners. You'll find a lot of the obstacles you face can be overcome a lot easier with teamwork, so if you running with a group and are not too fussed how fast you finish, stick with them and all help each other out.
Recovering after the race
No matter how much fun you had, chances are you'll left with bruises and be a little sore after a mud run and obstacle race. It's also likely that you'll be covered in mud and water too. So after having a well deserved shower, how do you recover after an intense event like this? Follow these few key steps:
Keep your body moving to prevent stiffness.
Stretch your neck, legs and arms for five to ten minutes to help with post-race soreness.
Drink plenty of water to rehydrate and consider having a carb/protein shake to help recover.
Some runners also take an ice bath to help with the soreness and inflammation after a big event like this.
Continue with your fitness and diet plan - now that you've achieved a mud run, why not take on more challenges?!
And that's our quick guide to training for your first mud run. Mud and obstacle runs can be a small as 3k or 10k or more, so maybe start off with a smaller one and then gradually build up over time. Most of all, don't get bogged down in race times and numbers - have fun and just enjoy the challenge!
Now it's time to find one near you - Obstacle Challenges - We have some great listings for muddy obstacle courses for beginners such as warrior dash and the race for life pretty muddy events (cancer research uk)