What Makes Tough Mudder Fitness Special | Kyle Byron Nutrition Blog
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What’s a Tough Mudder?

What’s a Tough Mudder?

The Tough Mudder is a 16 Km trail run with about 20 obstacles; such as crawling under barbed wire, swimming, and dodging electrical shocks. The Toronto version is held at Mt. St. Louis, which one must traverse six times. It is not a race, but you can approach it that way if you wish. You are encouraged to help those around you (there was plenty of that going on).

Below is is the starting “pen” and one of the obstacles.

How Did I end up here?

I was hired to train a team, and they invited me to join. How could I say no?

Like a lot of things in life, I hated what was about to happen, (extra cardio, getting shocked and muddy) but I really wanted the big payoff (being a leader, challenging myself, having fun, access to the after-party, meeting like-minded people). So I extended myself.

Why You Might Join:

  • You like hoopla and spectacle
  • You just experienced a loss and you need to achieve something big to regain confidence
  • You like climbing, running, swimming, and obstacles
  • You want to raise money for a cause (Tough Mudder supports Wounded Warriors)
  • You want to meet other people interested in fitness and crazy stuff
  • You want to dress up in a weird costume or run around in your undies
  • You need a deadline to motivate your training

The Deadline Effect

Upon committing financially, I immediately became more accountable for my training. I couldn’t just have good body composition. I needed to gain endurance, coordination, running economy, and unique skills like climbing; all in a very short time frame.

Executing on habits first requires organization. Basically, I acted like (and felt like) an athlete again (if I ever was one). It felt great! I loved the focus, purpose, perspective, belonging to something bigger than my own goals, and being part of a team.

The Deadline Effect is essentially this: The event inevitably approaches, and you have three options.

1. Prepare and suffer a bit preparing (cardio hurts a bit)
2. Don’t prepare and suffer a lot during the event (and maybe get a big injury)
3. Drop out

3. Dealing with Injuries

Ooops, I ramped up my running too quickly. Four weeks away from the event, I had shin splints and was ordered to stop running. I also had a series of neck and back spasms that left me unable to move my head for a few days. I was a mess.

Here were my options:

1. Continue training the way I was which would make me really fit and really injured. I’d be in pain the entire race but I’d be strong and fit
2. Listen to my care providers and downgrade all the fitness stuff. I’d be pain free for the race but not as fit.

My Miraculous Recovery (How to bounce back after an injury)

I have been down Injury Street many times and I know where it goes, and where the off-ramps are. I knew if I stayed positive, I could recover in time.

  • I reset my performance goal from “Finish strong” to “Start the race pain free.”
  • I listened to my care providers
  • Kept the injured areas moving in the limited pain free range (as opposed to total immobilization)
  • I adapted my cardio from running to swimming and anything else that didn’t hurt
  • I revamped my running stride via Tyler Linn (running expert) (frustrating as hell but it worked)
  • I was consistent in the gym with lifting
  • Great nutrition
  • Sleep good

If all that adapting sounds frustrating – it was!!! But the Deadline loomed and forced my habits into effect.

Dr. Linn and myself were both shocked when a week before the race, my shins were fine and my cardio was pretty good!

Thanks Tyler Linn, Kevin Okamura, Kate Gladney, and Nancy Brooks.

Is it a coincidence that this miraculous recovery occurred at the same time as my personal-best positive attitude?

Is it a coincidence I let go of my performance expectations and then exceeded my original performance expectation?

Master Oogway says there are no coincidences and Yoda would tell us to stay positive. Fear is the path to the Dark Side. Just sayin’.

 Strength Training for Obstacle Courses

  • I kept my strength training as usual
  • Every time I lift weights, I hit all my muscles. Compound movements like split squats, single arm rows, etc.
  • Frequency of 2-4 x a week
  • submaximal efforts to reduce injuries
  • Programmed by an objective expert (Ron Dykstra)

This by the way is the same way you should train for health, sport performance, and body composition.

The only thing I added to this was a FEW MINUTES per session of sport-specific skills, like hanging by one arm or crawling.

(As opposed to trying to make a workout 45 minutes of crawling or 30 minutes of hanging by one arm. First just get strong all over, then convert that into your required skills. )

5. How to Peak for an Event

A basic approach would be to ramp up gradually over six weeks so you are training maximally about 1-2 weeks before your event. So for interval cardio, your heart rate spikes up to 220 beat per minute minus your age. For lifting, each set you flirt with failing on the lift (still perfect form however).

Three-five days before the event is light training. Two days before is no training.

During this training ramp up I was eating like a beast (5000 cal per day), gaining muscle and losing fat. This was a good sign – My body was responding appropriately.

Carb Loading
Really simple: on the two days before your event, be sure that each meal and snack has about ½-1 fist of healthy starches (fruit, squash, yams, etc). You will have more glycogen (energy) for longer endurance.

6. Personal stuff and what I learned

The event site it was kinda like a rock concert. Obnoxious music and inflatable signs. Queues and wristbands. Someone a PA directing start times. But once on the course, most people we’re interested in joking around (I tried). Everyone was trying to stay warm (it was 6 C).

For some, TM was a huge test of their mettle. There were cancer survivors, fathers and sons, moms and daughters. I noticed that about half of the people there were not athletes of any sort. So no matter who is reading this, you can consider doing a Tough Mudder.

To start, they corral your wave into this giant pen and get you all pumped up. National Anthem and all that. It’s good. Then you’re off, up the mountain. The obstacles were only kinda challenging for me. Some were downright easy. Ok so I didn’t cross the monkey bars (splashdown).  It was tons of fun.

It was so cold at one point, my arm turned blue. I hugged myself as I ran to preserve heat. We took turns group-hugging to warm up.

As promised to my Fb friends, I did not drink a beer after the race. I waited to get some recovery nutrition in, and then that night, yes, I had a few drinks.

I learned a lot about the power of positive thinking, letting go of expectations, my running stride, and what I’m still capable of. I recommend Tough Mudder as a great undertaking.

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Kb Nutritionist and fun guy

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