A blog by runners. For runners.

Training for an obstacle or mud run through the winter

Training for an obstacle run through the winterObstacle runs – like Tough Mudder and Warrior Dash – are tempting for many runners because they offer us a chance to pursue a drastically different kind of training, one that runners are normally not used to. It’s great to have a reason for doing strength training beyond just cross-training, and it’s a wonderful way to get yourself out of a running rut.

But these runs, also known as mud runs, require a lot of preparation for runners since we don’t typically have the strength profile called for by most of these obstacles – like propelling ourselves along monkey bars or scaling walls. And for some reason, lots of mud run organizers plan these events in early spring – which means training through the winter.

How should we deal with the grueling mud run training through the sleety, windy, and dark months ahead?

I caught up with a friend, zumba instructor, and mud-runner Hayley Smith who has a bit of experience in the arena. Hayley completed dozens of mud runs in the UK and the Netherlands before leaving for the warmer Australian climate.   

Below are a few of her tips for mud runs through the winter:

  • Suck it up. Smith strength trains by running to kids’ playgrounds and using the equipment there – such as the monkey bars – to do circuit training. The rest of the time she just runs – no matter the weather. How does she motivate herself to do that?  “I just suck it up,” she said. “I know that no matter how much I dread going outside when it’s cold, dark or drizzly, I know that after 10 minutes I am going to feel great. So I just go for it.” While this is obviously easier said than done, it’s certainly a great philosophy for winter training.
  • Use the cold to your advantage. Obstacle runs are supposed to be uncomfortable. So if you can train yourself to not be fazed by things like a bit of cold rain or wind, you will be much better prepared for tackling daunting obstacles like jumping into pools filled with ice. In fact, Smith told me about a friend of hers who actually jumps into Dutch lakes and canals in the winter to prepare for these obstacles. I’m not saying you should go to such extremes, but it’s good to keep in mind that training in the winter will actually be helpful – so you might want to consider going out even when every one of the elements seems to be against you.
  •  said her secret is in her gear: she wears layers of sweat-wicking tops and a dedicated running hat if it’s raining, not bothering with a waterproof jacket unless it’s really coming down because she knows that after the first couple of kilometers it’s not going to matter – she’ll be in the zone. While the choice is naturally up to you, it’s good to remember that you don’t have to wear raingear, or a hat, or anything that you don’t like – wear what works for you, just make sure it’s layered so you can modify your temperature on the go.
  • Do gym work. Lots of the exercises that runners need to do to train for a mud run are doable in the gym, from treadmill hill training to pull-ups to core work. While lots of runners dread the gym, if your goal is to do a spring mud run, it may be well worth your while to find a good one and stick with it.

Obstacle runs are challenging, and training for them is difficult, but there’s also no more rewarding way to start off the race season than by conquering a springtime mud race.

Will you be training for one this winter? Let us know in the comments.

Written by Varia Makagonova / Photo Wikimedia