Don’t have the attention span to run a marathon, but not so keen on a jog on the treadmill? Have an odd fascination with mud pits, tunnel crawls, jump walls, and fire pits? Luckily, there are races that not only clock miles, but also include extreme obstacles (think Nickelodeon’s GUTS on steroids), lots of mud, and sometimes even a cold brew (or four) at the finish line. Ladies and gentlemen, introducing mud runs.
The Dirty Secret — The Need-to-Know
A mud run is an obstacle course that combines running, traversing fire, climbing towers, and, yes, trekking through mud pits. The philosophy behind mud runs is to challenge both mind and body. Whether it involves hauling over walls, swinging on ropes, swimming through swamps, or running through mud to the next blockade, the mud run tests every muscle, bone, and ounce of willpower. Doing a mud run not only guarantees a crazy story to tell, it also offers a variety of health and fitness benefits. Research suggests obstacle course training can help improve overall fitness levels and reduce body fat. Plus, the aerobic components such as running and swimming help strengthen the immune system and reduce the risk of heart disease. Anaerobic elements like climbing over hay bales and nets aid in strong bone development and weight control. Participants need to be in all-around tip-top shape to perform most of these races, which can be just as rewarding as crossing the finish line, beer in hand.
Earth, Wind, and Fire — Your Action Plan
- Pick your battle. There’s a mud run out there for almost everyone — from a 5K of good ol’ family fun to 48 hours of extreme racing. Pick a race that suits your fitness level and sounds the most fun!
- Plan ahead. Remember to start training well in advance of the event — at least a month before, or until comfortably able to complete mud run exercises — to prevent muscle strains and other injuries.
- Train true. Functional training (think push-ups, hip and back extensions, and lunges) mimic complex movements found on the mud run course and in real life. So try this type of training, which can set any mud run participant up for success Functional training improves club head speed and functional fitness in older golfers, Thompson CJ, Cobb KM, Blackwell J. Department of Exercise and Sport Science, University of San Francisco, California. The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 2007 Feb;21(1):131-7..
- Know the risks. There are obvious risks of climbing over, crawling under, and running through obstacles when covered in mud — especially when fire and barbed wire is involved! Mud runs typically have Emergency Medical Service staff on site, but it’s best to know what you’re getting into and, when in doubt, play it safe!