To the casual runner, training in the elements can often be frustrating and feel like a form of cruel and unusual punishment. But to the mud run maniac, mother nature’s hot, cold, wet and windy ingredients make for the ideal mud run training recipe.
…to the mud run maniac, mother nature’s hot, cold, wet and windy ingredients make for the ideal mud run training recipe
Training in the elements brings some real benefits that will help you stay on course through even the harshest conditions in your next mud run. Exercising in a variety of climates and weather can also be a very fun and refreshing experience that “good” weather cannot provide. Additionally, natural elements come with their own set of challenges that can add intensity and interest to a tired workout routine.
TOTW: Mud Run Training in the Elements 101
One of the best ways to work on your resistance training is to get outside on a windy day and hit the pavement. Similar to strapping on a parachute, running against a strong headwind will increase your stamina, leg power and improve overall running technique. Just keep in mind that you will use significantly more effort than normal, similar to incline running. When running against the wind, it’s best to set goals focused on energy use, not speed, so be sure to monitor your heart rate to keep from overexerting yourself. Conversely, running with the wind at your back will allow you to train for speed with minimal effort. Use the help of a solid tailwind to work on your stride, foot placement, and improve your sprinting ability.
Next time you look out the window and see rain drops, toss on your mud run gear and go get drenched. Training in the rain is one of the best ways to simulate the wet conditions of mud running and there are some other very slick benefits to boot. For example, wet surfaces will force you to concentrate on foot placement in order to prevent slipping or falling – very handy for a mud run! Don’t be afraid to work-in a plyometrics routine on a rainy day by jumping over puddles and storm drains. In hot temps, the rain will keep you cool and refreshed and can be invigorating in slightly cool weather as well. Extremely cold rain does not necessarily make for an enjoyable training session, but is highly recommended to help build your mental toughness and prepare you for turbulent mud running conditions.
Don’t shy away from the snow either. Rocky beat Ivan Drago by going directly to the source (Russia) and training in the most difficult conditions he had access to, including snow. Just like Rock’, for the harder mud runs, especially the more advanced Tough Mudders, Super Spartans, or Death Races, you want to put yourself through a little hell prior to race day. High-step through heavy snow to simulate plunging through those deep mud puddles. When it comes to a light dusting, the surface will often be very sleek, so practice maintaining your balance and proper form while you exercise. A word of caution here: much like training in windy conditions, it takes a lot more effort than normal to train in the snow. You may not realize your body is working hard or sweating due to the cold and wet conditions. Again, the safest way to train is with the use of a heart rate monitor, so you know the amount of effort and energy-loss.
Many mud runs held in the South or on the West coast are subject to very hot weather, which could ruin your mud run experience if you’re not prepared. While it is not recommended to train in extreme heat conditions, it’s not a bad idea to train in moderately hot temperatures, as long as you take precautions and stay hydrated. If you live in a perennially hot area, get your outdoor training session completed early in the morning or at sunset when the temperature is at its lowest. Also, try to register for the first or second wave of your mud run to avoid running in the afternoon when the temperature is at its peak. If you are looking to get your daily dose of Vitamin D, training outdoors in the sunlight is a great natural remedy. When paired with calcium, Vitamin D can improve bone mineral density, which can decrease your risk of a fall or fractured bone.
Preparing for your mud run in the cool winter months will not only make you Rocky-tough, but will give you some measurable benefits as well, including improved endurance, accelerated fat burning, and an overall feeling of well-being. Part of what makes the icy cold water obstacles at mud run events so popular is the exhilarating blood-pumping feeling one gets while hitting the water and the sense of rejuvenation once one is back on high ground. Training regularly in cold weather will condition your immune system against cold and flu-like symptoms. During your mud run, the last thing you want to do is burn out your lungs, so it’s a good idea to get accustomed to a cold-weather breathing pattern, especially if you signed up for a winter event. For more great info on cold weather benefits, check out this article from Diesel Crew.
Embrace the elements!
My best advice is to take advantage of the weather every chance you get. You’ll work a little harder, but you’ll be able to play a little harder as well.
And finally, here’s a little sampling of my mud run training in the elements. Cheers!
Rainy Day Beach Burpees
Mud Run Maniac wants to know what you think! Do you train regularly in the elements or are you an indoor gym-rat? What other topics or exercises would you like to see featured in TOTW? Please no spam-mongers. Keep mudding!