The Ultimate Guide to Get Ready for an Obstacle Race, Mud Run, Spartan Race or Tough Mudder.

Affiliate Disclosure

Articles, Fitness, Workout & Exercises

Ever heard of the “Spartan Death Race”?

You can click here for an Endurance Planet audio interview with the Spartan Death Race race director Joe DeSana and get filled in on the nitty-gritty details, but here's the cliff notes:

“There are millions of running races, thousands of marathons, hundreds of triathlons and dozens of ultramarathons but there is only one Spartan Death Race.  Held annually since 2005 in the small town of Pittsfield, VT, the Spartan Death Race gives up to 200 ultra-endurance athletes the chance to test their mental and physical prowess like no other event on earth.  On average only 15% of the competitors finish the event.  Remarkable when you consider the competitors are among the toughest and most seasoned endurance athletes on earth.  The hurdle and challenge-driven race requires competitors to complete a series of (15-20) grueling mental and physical challenges throughout a 40-mile course that runs through the Vermont woods.  During the Death Race, competitors may be asked to chop wood for 2-hours, carry a 20-lb stump around for hours, lift 10-30 lbs rocks for 5-hours; build a fire, cut a bushel of onions, crawl through mud under barbed wire, or after 20-hours of racing, memorize the names of the first 10 U.S. Presidents or a Bible verse, hike to the top of a mountain and recite them back in order.

Unlike other endurance races that offer a detailed map, Death Racers have no idea what to expect next as the course map and list of challenges are kept secret.  This provides competitors with one of their biggest challenges as the length of the race can range from 24-48 hours. For an endurance athlete, not knowing where the light is at the end of the tunnel can be sheer torture.”

Alright then.

So maybe the death race isn't for you, but you're still considering jumping into your local, relatively innocent obstacle race.

I got news for you: you still gotta be ready for some physical and mental curveballs.

So today's guest post by Joe Vennare of Race Day Domination tells you exactly how to be ready for your Obstacle Race, Mud Run, Spartan Race or Tough Mudder, and gives you a sample obstacle course race workout.

Take it away Joe…

The Ultimate Guide to Get Ready for an Obstacle Race, Mud Run, Spartan Race or Tough Mudder

Combining elements of adventure racing, trail running and a military challenge courses, obstacle races like Tough Mudder and the Spartan Race have sparked a recreation revolution. Instead of participating in a local 5k as a means of getting fit or socializing with friends, an increasing number of people are turning to obstacle racing for their fitness and amusement fix.

If you're looking for an exciting event that offers a daunting physical challenge, then you can follow this handy post to prepare for your obstacle course race.

Selecting a Race

Races vary with respect to distance, difficulty and level of competition. Whether you are looking for a good time or a challenging workout, you can choose between a race that is a party among friends or another that is a grueling test of physical abilities.  Spend some time looking into the different races, becoming familiar with the race course, various obstacles and components of the event, before completing your registration.


Obstacle racing is different than the average 5k or marathon.  Think more along the lines of an adventure race with muddy trails and military style obstacles.   Be prepared for sprinting, climbing, jumping, crawling and in some instances swimming.  To train for this type of event, focus your training on strength, cardiovascular stamina and hybrid fitness.


To take on the challenges encountered during a race you need to be able to transport your own body weight over, under, around or through obstacles.  Building strength relative to your body weight by using functional and dynamic movements is most beneficial. Body weight exercises such as push-ups, triceps dips, pull-ups and squats can be used to create a foundation of strength. Then include athletic and explosive movements such as kettlebell swings, jump squats, burpees and box jumps will help improve balance and leg strength.


Obstacle racing requires a solid base of cardiovascular fitness.  Running long distances is not essential because these races tend to take place in bursts or intervals, varying between running and the obstacles.  To improve this type of cardiovascular fitness, include 2-3 days of run specific workouts into your training program. Look to include one long run, high intensity sprints and hills climbs.

Hybrid Fitness

Combine strength training and cardiovascular workouts into one hybrid training session by pairing sprints with push-ups.  Train grip strength by completing farmer’s walks, transport an awkward or heavy object using a weighted sled or improve wear a weighted vest during a workout to improve leg and core strength.

Training for an obstacle race is a fun way to get in shape and stay motivated.  Whether you are searching for a competitive outlet or camaraderie, you are sure to benefit from the sense of accomplishment that comes with achieving a new and unique goal.

A Sample Obstacle Course Race Workout

Using the methods described above, here's what an obstacle course race workout would look like:

Dynamic warm-up, then –

Run @ 400m (or 60-90 seconds hard as possible)
25x Kettlebell or Dumbbell Swings
Run @ 400m
25x Burpees
Run @ 400m
25x Kettlebell or Dumbbell Thrusters
Run @ 400m
25x Push-ups

Repeat up to 3 times as a circuit, with minimal rest.

Race Day Essentials

When race day rolls around, you don’t want you forgetting anything.  Use these checklists to make sure you have everything you need to dominate your race.

What to Wear

  • You are going to get dirty and probably trash your clothes.  Wear clothing, shoes, and gear that you wouldn’t mind discarding after the race. 
  • If you plan to compete like an athlete, plan to dress like one.  Consider compression shorts, tights, tops, and/or socks. Cotton and baggy clothing is a bad choice.  It will slow you down and get snagged on obstacles.
  • Race in something you have trained in.  Don’t wear something straight out of the box. 
  • Opt for trail running or off-road shoes. 
  • Consider athletic or weight lifting gloves to help with grip and to protect your hands.

What to Bring

  • Hydration pack
  • Knee, elbow, or leg protection, pads, or compression sleeves
  • Sunscreen
  • Athletic or medical tape
  • Watch and/or heart rate monitor

Post Race

  • Bring a change of clothes, towel, and toiletries to be warm and dry for the post race party
  • Have some extra cash on hand for food and merchandise
  • Enjoy the race and post-race activities

Dominate Your Race

If you preparing to take on an obstacle course race or mud run then you need to check out Race Day Domination.  It’s the only fitness program designed specifically for obstacle racers and mud runners. Race Day Domination features 24 weeks of detailed workouts full of high-intensity strength and cardio that will train you to go over around or through any obstacle you encounter.

Here's a Race Day Domination video that tells you more:


So what about YOU? Are you signed up for an obstacle race? Have you done one before and have a gory story to tell? Share your thoughts below for bragging rights.

Ask Ben a Podcast Question

11 thoughts on “The Ultimate Guide to Get Ready for an Obstacle Race, Mud Run, Spartan Race or Tough Mudder.

  1. sweetintense says:

    Thanks for the great detail of the race. I'm not ready for the race yet but definitely I'm going to set the goal to join the race. I linked to this article on my site.

  2. Sandra says:

    Im taking a kinesiology class in school and we're training for a duathalon we run and bike and do cardio and strength workouts, alot of HIIT training and stuff like that! Three of my friends and I are doing a Spartan Race in barrie, would the workouts and training were doing for the duathalon be sufficient to prepare for the Spartan race do you think?

    1. Yes, but I'd be sure to throw in once per week random, new stuff in which you challenge your body with some new moves!Ben ******************************Free fat loss, performance & nutritionadvice a <a href="http://thttps://bengreenfieldfitness.comt<br />******************************Shop online for everything I recommend at:******************************

  3. John says:

    I have run 5 of these and have a few more thing to add for gear.

    I wear neoprene knee braces for crawling on my knees over small rocks and I have a bad knee too. I highly recommend these if you want to pass people during the obstacles – I laugh as I pass those wearing shorts.

    If you are going to wear shorts – wear the short tights under them. Your legs will chaff instantly if you don't. Also, avoid pockets in the shorts and if you have some good board shorts, that's the best. They dry quickly and don't have pockets. I wear compression pants and always will. They are great.

    I wear elbow compression padded sleeves. Again, I pass lots of people on the obstacles. They are light weight and don't hold water and you won't even know they are there.

    I recommend wearing gloves. I have worn a few different types and have now found the ones I prefer. They are a white fabric with a blue rubber grip and cost $3.00 and you can find at any hardware store. I cut small slits in the end of each finger so the water drains out right away. This is another thing that allows me to be more durable and faster for the obstacles.

    I wear sock gators because they keep the rocks out of the shoes. Helps big time. They also help to keep the shoes on the feet while going through deep, thick mud and water. Duct tape doesn't work. It falls off quickly.

    Be careful racing with others that may not have trained for this. I raced with two people that said they were training but were significantly slower than I was and I was up there (this was on a mountain) for over 5 hours because of them. I could have completed the course in about 3.

    One last thing – BRING A PLASTIC TRASH BAG for your muddy clothes and don't skimp out on your gear because it's going to get dirty. Just hose it off and wash it 3 times.

    I love doing these races. People are really great at helping each other and the overall camaraderie is awesome.
    Just remember to have fun and don't take yourself too seriously.

  4. Jamie says:

    I'm doing my first ToughMudder in May here in the UK, so this is pretty awesome, thanks guys!

    I managed to break my PB in run distance last week as a result of preparing for this. Previously I'd never ran further than 5k, so I'm glad it's pushing me!

    Oh, I probably should say it was more of a skate than a run…the paths were pretty much ice, so yeah as Michelle said, a sense of humour is probably going to be a must :D

    The ToughMudder site has a video of a dude starting his training with an ice cold bucket of water over his head!!! Think I'll need to work up to that!

  5. Thanks for the article/podcast. I'm planning on running both a warrior dash (march) and a Spartan Beast (June). I'm gonna give Race Day Domination a go, as I'm completely new to this kind of training. Hope it works out for me!

    1. Awesome, you'll kill it!

  6. Jordano8 says:

    Just a nitpick edit but "millions" of running races would imply that there are about 10000 running events held in every country of the world. Don't think so…

  7. Michelle says:

    Based on my DR experience I would add sense of humor to your race day essentials as well as wet wipes and hemmrois creme ; ) an ax, saw, bungee cords, rope, knife, water proof matches, home depot bucket with lid to cRry qater up a mountain without spilling a drop, water filtration ( simple one) for summer, lots of sock changes, stuff to take carr of chewed up feet, caffeine in some form and the ability to go 48 or more hours nonstop…. Best workout? Get out of gym and instead fill a childs sleigh with cement blocks and pull it at least 5 miles up and over a mountain then do 300 burpees and finish a crossword puzzle while waist deep in freezing water ; ) seriously

    1. LOL on your "Get out of gym and instead fill a childs sleigh with cement blocks and pull it at least 5 miles up and over a mountain then do 300 burpees and finish a crossword puzzle while waist deep in freezing water"

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *