September 2017

Tough Mudder: Is it worth the hype?

group of three black men and one indian woman covered in mud

As a Tough Mudder, I pledge that I understand that Tough Mudder is not a race but a challenge. I put teamwork and camaraderie before my course time. I do not whine – kids whine. I help my fellow Mudders complete the course. I overcome all fears. 

These are the words of the oath every Tough Mudder must take, while in the starting pen, before their wave begins. And boy, how bang on right it is with the way in which the Tough Mudder course is set out. You see the nerves in some people’s eyes. Some wearing the coveted orange headband (a sign to say they’ve done Tough Mudder before) look confused as to why they’re here again. Some shout out motivation quotes, jumping up and down in excitement…. that also summed up the feelings in my team I lead for For Goodness Shakes. We had one person who had the orange headband and two of us shouting out motivational #fitspo comments. 

 Tough Mudder is no ordinary obstacle course race (OCR). It challenges you physically and mentally. This review is pretty much a frank and honest blog post so if you’re looking for a rose-tinted review, this might not be the post to read. 

The full Tough Mudder course really did separate those who excel in upper body training and those who love cardio-hardio. Runners will find the running parts of the course easy, the muscle-men and muscle ladies will find the obstacles easier. I thought I had trained upper body enough to excel at the monkey bar obstacles, but clearly I had not. It turns out that working the monkey bars like a boss at the gym is no way near the same as working the monkey bars at Tough Mudder. The monkey bar obstacles were the two I was really looking forward to but I failed epically on the second ring on each one. I was asked which were the hardest obstacles, and I’ve got to say it was those. Take note people, The Fit Londoner needs to improve her upper body strength. Face palm.

So what did Tough Mudder show when it comes to training? Incorporate at least one long run in your training plan. Many of the legionnaires (those who’ve done Tough Mudder before) said that The Tough Mudder London South course (by the by, it’s not really in London, it’s in Faygate) was flatter than other courses. Yet the course definitely had some inclines – so incorporate some hill sessions in your training. HIIT sessions or bootcamps are goodies to include for Tough Mudder training – the high intensity and quick switching between different exercises in the classes will prepare you for the switching between running and exercises at Tough Mudder (and any other OCR, to be fair).   

Most importantly, for the purpose of muscular balance and the nature of Tough Mudder obstacles, including upper body training sessions will be an almighty godsend to you. Pull-ups, lat pull-downs, bent-over row are just a handful of upper body exercises to include if you’re at the gym. Alternatively, a lot of parks have monkey bars for adults. Practice with them as they will also help. So what does this show you? Your Tough Mudder training needs to be all-rounded. Even if you don’t like running, you still need to incorporate it in your training because there is no way of avoiding it on Race Day (unless you’re walking the whole thing.

There is a tiny bit of swimming at Tough Mudder, so do be warned.  It is less than five minutes you’re swimming, but if you’re not a confident swimmer or can’t swim, take note. If you don’t get very muddy during the course, you’ll definitely get wet. And, if you do get muddy on the course, you’ll equally get very wet. And if you’re anticipating having the head-to-toe muddy look as you sprint to the end, like at other races, then be warned that most of the mud is washed off you during one of the water-based obstacles during the challenge. 

  I was asked on Twitter, what was the scariest part of the challenge. Some people are scared of Arctic Enema, some are scared of Electrocution Therapy, and others are scared of both. 

Arctic Enema is an obstacle where you slide into a freezing (and I really do mean freezing) ice bath after having previously slid across plenty of mud. To give you an idea of the ice-cold temperature, I’ve heard that they go through 20,000 lbs of ice just for this obstacle. Yikes. 

In terms of physically doing anything, it is easy, but that brain freeze and shock of the cold is a whole new level and is what causes the fright in people. I wouldn’t go so far as being scared of it, but I would say it is one to dread if you’re not a fan of your typical ice bath. It’s over in a matter of seconds and running as soon as you get out of it helps to rewarm your body (and brain). Luckily, in terms of the weather, there were good conditions on our day, which made the aftershock of Arctic Enema more bearable. I think if it was colder or raining, I would have hated the obstacle (Raynaud’s problems…). 

As for Electrocution Therapy, this one beast of an obstacle is what puts a lot people off Tough Mudder. I get it. Just when you’ve crawled through mud, climbed ridiculously high walls, climbed over people, swam, dunked your entire body in an ice bath, carried heavy logs on one of your shoulders and on top of that completed over 10 miles of running, you’re told to run through a cage where live wires are hanging down and your only way to get to the finish line is to have some Electrocution Therapy. What? What? What? A cage where apparently the live wires are juiced with 10,000 volts of electricity. Gulp. There goes the British love for Health and Safety. 

But how about I ask you this: have you ever used an epilator at home or do you do laser hair removal? Having done Tough Mudder now, used an epilator in the past and currently get my face lasered every couple of months, it’s not Electrocution Therapy that I’m afraid of. It’s the blasted laser hair removal (seriously, that is the most painful 15 minutes I wish I could have back).  So don’t be afraid and keep that fear from letting you do Tough Mudder.   

   If you’re wondering what to wear or expect for OCR  races, read this previous post. I’d add that if you are thinking of doing more than one OCR then buy a good pair of trail shoes. Mine are the Innov8 x-talon 200. You need a pair that feel light, and don’t soak up the water or mud. You want to feel like you’re running freely. Alternatively, wear a pair that you don’t mind throwing away. Tough Mudder are quite good in that they pair up all the thrown out trainers from the day, wash them and donate to charities. In terms of leggings, we did spot a few people with holes on their butt cheeks of their leggings, so wear leggings that you don’t mind possibly getting ruined. My Nike shorts have seen me through several OCRs and survived Tough Mudder.  

You can do Tough Mudder solo, but it’s best to do the challenge in a team – everything about the course and obstacles are based around teamwork. If you want to get acquainted with friends or colleagues in a different way, this is course to try. The typical British polite behaviour “would you ever so mind…?” is thrown out of the window at OCRs. People will grab your butt or parts of your body (in a non-pervy way) to help you climb over obstacles. You’ll be standing on the laps of strangers as you try to make your way up obstacles. There is no room for shyness at these events.  

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Yes, okay certain aspects of the course are hyped up, but that’s marketing for you and the Tough Mudder challenge did not disappoint. The next day I was left with a very sore and achy upper body that Deep Freeze, rest and stretching fixed, as well as plenty of newly found scratches and bruises OCR kisses all over my legs and arms. Yet I’m already hyping myself up for round two of Tough Mudder 2018…  

This post was in collaboration with For Goodness Shakes. All opinions are my own