The season of mud races is upon us. The warmer temperatures allow for a variety courses through rough, rocky terrain and intense obstacles that attract runners of all ages and abilities. Not only can mud runs be a lot of good, messy fun, but they can also be challenging—even more so if you’re not physically prepared.
The best way to train your body is by employing the principle of specificity. Simply put, that means if you want to become a better runner, then you need to run. With that being said, we understand not everyone has an obstacle course in his or her backyard, so the principle of specificity can become, well, muddled when training for this particular brand of race. Thus, we have compiled several exercises (some based on the principle of specificity) to help replicate movements found in many mud races:
Pull-ups: Developing a strong upper body—particularly the lats and biceps—for a mud race is essential. There are many obstacles that will require you to pull and lift your own body weight such as climbing over walls, cargo nets and pulling large rocks. Performing pull-ups unassisted or with assistance is key for priming your upper body before race time.
Bear Crawls: Bear crawls are a great preparatory exercise for mud runs because they develop your core strength and mimic the exact movement that is needed to crawl under the barbed wire and through tunnels or other low-lying obstacles often found in these courses.
Towel Grabs: This is a unique exercise that will prepare you for any rope climbing during the race. The idea is to wrap a hand towel around a bar (think pull-up or monkey bar) and grab each end while bending your knees to lift your body off the ground. From there, pull one side of the towel and then the other to mimic climbing up a rope. If that proves to be too difficult, work on simply hanging to develop your grip strength before progressing to the climbing motion.
Monkey Bars: This is a great example of a specific movement you can train for since many mud runs feature monkey bars as an obstacle. First, practice going from one end to the other end of the bars without stopping. Then simply hang from the bars and slowly increase your hang time. Like towel grabs, this will strengthen your grip and assist in many of the mud run obstacles you will face.
Trail Running: This is another excellent training exercise that falls within the principle of specificity. Most mud runs span more than 5 miles through the woods, up and down hills and over rocks and branches. Find a wooded trail to run one to two times per week to best prepare your body for the actual terrain it will soon face.
Jason DeHenzel has trained some of New York’s most prestigious clients, including high-profile lawyers, advertising executives, movie producers and musicians. Sophie DeHenzel is a Pn1-certified nutritionist and former downhill ski racer. The pair founded DeHenzel Training Systems, a 2015 Home-Based Business of the Year from the Loudoun County Chamber of Commerce. DeHenzel Training Systems develops customized fitness plans for clients of different abilities, experience and commitment. Find out more at dtsnova.com.