If spending the day crawling through mud pits, traversing water and leaping over fire sounds like a lot more fun than an hour at the gym, you’re not alone — obstacle races are all the rage. Planning to unleash your inner warrior at a mud run this season? Check out these tips for attacking the course like a boss.
As soon as you sign up
Start training: You don’t have to change your whole workout routine, says James Villepigue, CSCS, the author of “Obstacle Race Training Bible.” But you do want to “think about what you’re gonna be doing on the course,” he says. On top of metabolic resistance training — switching between resistance-training and cardio moves that you probably already do — Villepigue recommends functional training, in which you mimic the moves you’ll do on race day.
“It’s things like getting down on your knees and crawling, pulling your body with your elbows,” he says. “It’s doing an actual pull-up where you’re pulling yourself up over [something]. It’s switching things up a little from the traditional setting of the gym.”
Get your diet in order: “I suggest incorporating lean protein, calcium-rich foods and vegetables in your diet as soon as possible,” says dietician Anita Mirchandani, founder of FitMapped.com. “I never like to say ‘remove’ or ‘eliminate,’ but try to avoid eating high-fat triggers such as pizza, burgers, fries and sweets.”
The day before
Take it easy: If you’ve been training on the regular, your “body, muscles and cardiovascular have been stimulated sufficiently,” Villepigue says. “Taking a day off before a race will allow you get the necessary rest that allows muscles to be completely fueled and ready to work.”
Eat right: “Try to eat a healthful diet the day before a race,” Mirchandani says. “I do believe in carb-loading but I don't necessarily think that you only need to eat rice, pasta and bread. I think that at least four to six servings of protein is important also. A good plan would be to have protein and carbs for every meal — for example, an egg sandwich for breakfast, a grilled chicken wrap for lunch and a lean protein, pasta/rice/quinoa/couscous and greens for dinner.”
Drink up (water, that is): “Drinking more water the morning of race day is great, but it won't necessarily cover you unless you were effectively hydrating a day or more before,” says Villepigue.
The morning of the race
Have a bite to eat: But don’t go overboard on a big breakfast, Mirchandani says. “My recommendation is to consume a mini-meal of at least 200 calories.” Opt for a banana and piece of whole wheat toast with nut butter, or a yogurt with fruit and a little granola.
Dress right: “Researching the temperature the day of the event as well as knowing the course prior to race day which will allow you to dress suitably,” says Mike Silverman, a physical therapist at NYC’s Hospital for Special Surgery’s James M. Benson Sports Rehabilitation Center. “Many of these mud runs involve you repeatedly going in and out of water, so wearing too many layers can weigh you down and too little may make the day very uncomfortable.”
Don’t stretch! “You’re basically telling the muscles to rest,” Villepigue says. “A dynamic warm-up is key to prepare the muscles for what’s about to happen.” Try jumping jacks, high-knee kicks or a short jog. "One of the most common reasons why people get injured before any type of endurance activity is because they are not properly warmed up,” Silverman says.
Strap on your water: “Put a little harness on or a little backpack,” Villepigue says. “People a lot of time don’t even realize they’re dehydrated because they assume that you’re thirsty when you’re dehydrated, and that’s not true. For us to have really efficient muscles we need to make sure that we’re drinking water before, during and after the race.”
Don’t try anything new: “Try not to introduce anything on race day that you haven't already tried before,” Mirchandani recommends. “For example, don't take energy gels on race day if your body isn't used to them. Focus on consistency.”
Fuel yourself: “First, hydrate,” Mirchandani says. “Then, a medium piece of fruit is always good to consume soon after. After 60 minutes, a protein-rich snack is ideal.”
Stretch it out: “To minimize soreness, perform some light static stretching after the run to help elongate the muscles. Hold contractions for approximately 20-30 seconds and perform multiple repetitions,” Silverman says. “Another way to minimize soreness is to ice your joints after the run. Keeping an ice pack on the affected joint for 15-20 minutes will help decrease pain and inflammation that may have developed with the run.”
To prep for your next race, Fitness studio As One (1845 Broadway, 212-956-3024) hosts small-group obstacle race training classes (the only ones in the city!) that simulate the challenges participants face on race day, as well as help to build strength and endurance. Classes are Mondays and Wednesdays and your first is free; get the schedule at www.as1effect.com.
Racers can take advantage of Windham Hill Inn's “After Tough Mudder” package ($991.50) for participants in need of a little post-race pampering. It includes two nights at the Vermont hotel, a champagne cocktail upon arrival, daily breakfast and tea, a five-course post-workout meal for two, a bath with Epsom salts and a deep-tissue massage.
Dirty Girl Mud Run (women only)
Philadelphia: June 22
Boston: July 13
New York: Aug. 3
Boston and Philadelphia: June 1 and 2
Englishtown, New Jersey: Oct. 12 and 13
The Survival Race (founded by Villepigue)
Long Island: May 4 and Sept. 7
New Jersey: June 15
New York: Aug. 25
Tri-state area: June 1, 2, 8; Sept. 7, 8
Boston: Nov. 16
New York: June 29
New Jersey: July 13 and 14