With 10 miles of muddy terrain and 25 obstacles Tough Mudder Classic requires both muscular stamina and cardiovascular capacity, says Melody Scharff, C.P.T. trainer at Fhitting Room. Mudders need to be able to get their heart rate up, and keep it up as they run through mud and scale walls. Basically, she says, endurance is key BUT it’s possible to build endurance without running.
Endurance allows Mudders to work out aerobically at certain (read: high) intensities for an extended period of time. VO2max and lactate threshold are the two most important measures of aerobic capacity. VO2 max is the maximum rate at which an athlete’s body can consume oxygen during exercise; improving maximal oxygen intake with targeted training can improve endurance ability, explains founder of Movement Vault, Dr. Grayson Wickhman PT, DPT, CSCS. Lactic threshold is the second piece of the puzzle, which is the level of exertion that lactic acid accumulates in the muscles.
Lucky for Mudder Nation, both of these measures can be improved with smart training and without running. Finisher headband here we come. Try these 6 tips to help bump your endurance up a notch.
Hit Up HIIT
In and out of the mud, HIIT is considered paramount for training. HIIT requires that you work as hard as you can for short bursts of time (20, 30, 45 or 60 seconds) and then recover for another short burst. “HIIT is best used to improve cardiovascular endurance when you focus on full body or compound movements. 45 seconds of slow bicep curls isn’t going to benefit your cardio in the same way 45 seconds of jumping lunges will” explains Scharff.
The most popular version of HIIT exercise is tabata, which is 20 seconds on, 10 seconds off for 4 minutes (or 8 rounds) of high intensity movements. Since you’re only working for 20 seconds at a time the goal is to give 100% of your effort. Scharff recommends that someone working on their cardiovascular endurance incorporates at least 2 tabata workouts into their training. Or for Mudders who are short on time drilling through 4-5 different tabata workouts for a killer workout in under 20 minutes.
Incorporate Steady State Cardio
High Intensity interval training (HIIT) is the best way to find max heart rate, explains Scharff. But adding in some steady-state cardio for longer intervals is needed to bring your endurance to the next level. 20, 30 even 40 minutes will get you cardiovascularly prepared for Tough Mudder Classic, which takes on average 3.5 hours to complete. Many people shy away from longer cardio workouts because they think running is the only way to improve steady-state cardio endurance. But other monolithic exercises like biking, swimming, rowing, and elliptical training will also do the trick, and are a great substitute with athletes who either have joint issues or simply hate running. Plus, longer monolithic training workouts will also mentally prepare you for the demands of the course.
Add In Explosive Exercises
Plyometrics are a type of high intensity training that tap into energy stored in muscles for explosive movements. These movements help encourage muscular development, agility, cardiovascular conditioning, stamina, and speed explains Yusuf Jeffers, a NASM-certified personal trainer. Adding in box jumps, burpees, and power push-ups to your training will improve the muscular endurance you need on the course.
As you push through your Tough Mudder training, fuelling your body the right way will not only prepare you for your next Tough Mudder event, but also continue on to your next fitness goal. That means lots of protein and carbs. Our bodies turn carbs into energy by breaking them down into sugar (called glucose). Then, our small intestine absorbs that glucose and releases it into our bloodstream. Once that glucose is in the bloodstream, we can use it as immediate energy. Without these carbs, the body might break down muscle for fuel instead, explains Leslie Bonci, M.P.H., R.D., C.S.S.D., of Active Eating Advice. Definitely not something we want. So increasing carbohydrate intake will help replace the glycogen that is getting burned up in training.
Protein helps our muscles repair and grow. This means that with proper protein intake, the body is better equipped to preserve and build muscle. Keri Gans, M.S., R.D.N., certified yoga instructor and owner of Keri Gans Nutrition recommends that Mudders in training should consume 2-3 grams of carbohydrates per pound of body weight (such as oatmeal, whole grains, sweet potatoes, fruit, and vegetables) and at least 1 gram of protein (such as lean chicken, Greek yogurt, and eggs) per pound of body weight to keep their bodies running smoothly.
Rest and Relax
As tough of a Mudder as you might be, your body still needs some R&R. Neglect recovery for too long and you’ll sink into a pit of overtraining that’s harder to walk out of than Mud Mile. Basically, when you train you are essentially causing trauma to your body; every time you exercise you are creating micro-tears in your muscles, which grow back stronger when they repair. Without proper rest, there is not enough time for the muscles to grow back stronger. The key is to train smarter NOT harder.
Mix It Up
Remember: routine is the enemy. Switching up your workouts is essential to building endurance. Once you find your training niche, don’t stick to just that. Getting to that personal best in the mud means working on what’s weak. Featuring a combination of workouts and fun Challenges Tough Mudder Challenges Marvel Series is the perfect way to mix up your training.