5 Steps to Start Training for a Tough Mudder OCR

By EROCK | 5 November, 2019


The thing about OCR and Tough Mudder is that literally anyone can do it—if you just will yourself to step outside your comfort zone. Tackling an obstacle course race or event is a great way to challenge yourself and discover your ability to deal with uncertainty, both on course and off. And while trying something new can feel uncomfortable at first, Mudder Nation is ready to welcome and accept you!

Ready to join us? Here's how to start training for your first Tough Mudder OCR event.

1. Crush your Self Doubt and Commit.

We did not send men and machines to the moon without first overcoming the fear of failure. The human spirit is the most indomitable thing on this planet. And you have the that fire inside you right now. Self doubt is the physiological manifestation of fear. Fear is simply a primal reaction we have in our minds because we don't know about something. Isn't that a silly thing? We sabotage ourselves because we are afraid to truly know what something is or feels like.

After many years of running Tough Mudder events and helping others prepare for OCR events, there is one true first step. Commitment. Once you commit, I mean truly commit, there is no such thing as failure. The only thing different from those who have come before you at the start line of a Tough Mudder is that they have consciously shrugged their shoulders and said, “Here I go! I’m doing this!” So get out of your head, smile, and take the first step.

2. Develop an Aerobic Base.

OCR events are running events. Yes, I will get to the strength development necessary to do the Tough Mudder obstacles, but first and foremost you need to establish an aerobic base. This means you need to start running. As athletes are made, we build a foundation that builds the capacity to endure the miles. 

Aerobic conditioning is low to moderate intensity training that usually involves running, rowing, biking, and low weight compound movements (squats, lunges, presses). I recommend combining two of the forms of exercise like running and biking in daily workouts. Why? Training gets repetitive during the first few weeks and months. Using a variety of exercises and lengths of training will keep you engaged and fired up to keep going on the journey. Start slow, maybe only a couple of 400m runs and then work up to three to four mile runs on the weekends. 

3. Hit the Gym With a Plan.

Running and biking will help to build your lungs, but weight training will help you crush the obstacles—and help your teammates achieve their goals as well. After helping countless first -OCR athletes, the one regret most have is not doing enough core training and developing grip strength. In developing the Tough Mudder Bootcamp, this was one of the main drivers behind my programming. I wanted to give a clear path to progression for athletes to develop the strength necessary to run an OCR course but also feel comfortable in the gym. So many first time athletes get intimidated by the gym because they just don't know what to do when they get there, so boredom happens and dreams get sidelined.

Reaching out to a local Tough Mudder Bootcamp or a personal trainer for help is the best way to ensure you start on a program that keeps you interested and builds your strength. If you are building beginner workouts on your own take these notes to heart:

1) Choose only functional movements that are compound in nature (squat, deadlift, press, pull).
2) Use training equipment like kettlebells, dumbbells and sandbags. These tools are very diverse and are scalable to any level.
3) Hang on things. Grip strength translates into full body strength development. Farmer carries with kettlebells or dumbbells are great if you don’t have a pull-up bar handy and work great for core strength.

4. Get a team together.

Teamwork and camaraderie are the pillars that have made Tough Mudder events so memorable for people. As you are setting into the unknown to challenge yourself, it can be incredibly difficult to go this alone.  What I have seen to be the most successful team developing method is to lead by example and motivate others through your actions. People are drawn to leaders who take on challenges, instill confidence and DO! The training you undertake daily, the drive you display among your friends and coworkers, and the positivity you share are huge assets in building a strong team. Building a Tough Mudder team sometimes can take months of emails, phone calls, and text messages, but it's worth it. 

Here is a secret about Tough Mudder: While there is joy in accomplishing your goal of finishing your first 5k or Tough Mudder Classic, the real beauty that I see time and time again is in helping others achieve their goals. While you may be the one who had to overcome many obstacles to sign up for a Tough Mudder, building a team of other like-minded individuals can elevate your spirit and leadership skills and help you grow as a person. This is what being a Tough Mudder really means!

5. Set a Date and GO!

Now we have come full circle back to commitment. Tough Mudder has 35 events across the U.S. and even more abroad. The calendar of events helps you plan and execute your training right. Putting a date on the calendar is something to look forward to and word towards. I recommend choosing an event at least three months out so you can get some good training in, develop your base, and build strength.

We can't wait to see you in the mud!

Eric “ERock” Botsford is the Creative Director of Tough Mudder Bootcamp. As Director of Training, Eric has leveraged his extensive experience as an athlete, athletic trainer, and gym owner to design a completely unique training program that is proven to deliver real world results. The philosophy on training is rooted squarely in the interval training methodology, with a focus on reaping cardiovascular benefits without losing power, speed and strength. This emphasis led to the creation of the complementary fitness pillars: Endurance, Strength, Agility, and Power.