Survive and Thrive in Your Next Mud Run

Originally Published by Endurance Magazine in Aug 2011

by Brian Diaz

As an endurance athlete and outdoor enthusiast, I am routinely asked to do 12- and 24-hour adventure races, as well as 8- to 12-hour continuous mountain bike loops and road rides that challenge many aspects of fitness other than just your running ability or cycling stamina. These types of races have been around for a while and various training strategies exist for the various disciplines you may encounter.

Recently, a newer type of “race” has emerged as somewhat of a blend of endurance and strength. It has attracted all types of people, from the CEO desk worker, to the weekend warrior, to the ex-Division I athlete, to the current U.S. Marine or soldier.

These races are popping up all over the state and country with names like Primal Challenge and Warrior Dash, and are filling up and selling out quickly. My focus as a personal trainer and physical therapist now includes not only preparation, but survival without injury.

In terms of training, and as a physical therapist, this is actually one of the more rounded training regimens that you could utilize. A blend of functional movements and gym-based exercises built around the high-intensity interval principals that I covered in a previous article are going to be the focus of your time outside of traditional cardiovascular training. These types of races require a unique blend of endurance, strength and flexibility to negotiate the course fast.

A typical breakdown for these type of races up to a half-marathon for the actual running distance covered should be a minimum of three days of running and two days of resistance work. Depending on your schedule, you may be able to add a fourth day of running and/or a third day of resistance training. The total time spent training should be in the range of 5-6 hours per week for a shorter race and 7-8 hours a week for a race over 10 miles long.

Obviously, your time commitment to the training and goals set for accomplishment may be different and the intensity may vary, but the time dedicated to training should be the same in order to minimize the risk of injury. One of the most prevalent mechanisms of injury that I am seeing in the clinic for physical therapy is overuse of certain muscles groups that have been fairly dormant up to this point.

Whether in the feet, knees, hips, low back or shoulders, your body needs to be prepared to do certain activities; otherwise injury is almost certain. You can’t expect your sedentary lifestyle to immediately adapt because back in high school you were a three-sport athlete. It takes time and preparation and believe me you don’t want to be seeing me for the next four to six months to recover from a fairly major injury as a result of your actions.

So where to start? Many of you have already begun a running schedule that you may have found on the Internet that helps prepare you for the distance needed to be covered. These can range from a relatively simple and flat 2-3 miles that might be done on concrete (I’ve seen a race in the parking lot and track of Charlotte Motor Speedway with obstacles) to a much more challenging hilly 10-12 miles that covers a ski resort from top to bottom.

Whatever your goal, find a program that works for you or discuss your plans with a personal trainer with an endurance background to get you pointed in the right direction. The second step is to recognize the need to be prepared to run while seriously fatigued and to learn how to utilize your upper body to navigate some of the obstacles.

That leads us to the high- intensity interval training and sets of exercises that we can pair together to get the greatest results mimicking the course-like conditions. I have put together a series of movements that require minimal equipment so most of them can be performed at home.

I would recommend getting a TRX Suspension Trainer if you don’t already have access to one or some other type of suspension device. I suggest utilizing a timed interval approach; going on for 40 seconds and off for 20 seconds will keep the timing simple and keep you starting on the whole minute. You should do 15 exercises three times through for a total of 45 minutes of exercise. If needed, take an extra minute or two of rest after each time through the 15 exercises. For videos of the exercises see below or please visit our YouTube channel for more ideas.

1. Squat
2. Alt Single Leg Squat Hops
3. Step Side Lunge

4. Chest Press
5. Chest Fly

6. High Row
7. Power Pull

8. Lunge Hop

9. Hamstring Curls

10. Crunch into Oblique Crunch
11. Horizontal Pull Up
12. Plank

13. Deltoid Y Fly into I Fly

14. Torso Rotation
15. Overhead Back Extension

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