5Ks, 10Ks, marathons, and even triathlons have been prevalent with fitness fiends everywhere for quite some time now. Signing up, making the commitment, following a vigorous training plan, and crossing the finish line
5Ks, 10Ks, marathons, and even triathlons have been prevalent with fitness fiends everywhere for quite some time now. Signing up, making the commitment, following a vigorous training plan, and crossing the finish line, knowing full well that all your hard work paid off, provides a satisfaction beyond compare. However, in recent years, there has been a substantial increase in the popularity of a new fitness challenge: the military-style endurance race. Combining a long-distance run (usually 10-16 miles) with a series of obstacles testing both physical strength and mental grit, these events provide a totally original and undeniably different fitness experience. While a few organizations have sprung up offering a similar style of event, Tough Mudder is one of the first and, undoubtedly, the best (as well as this writer’s personal favourite!).
Created in 2010 by a couple of Brit expats studying at Harvard Business School, Tough Mudder’s opening year comprised 3 events, all taking place in the States. Fast-forward 6 years and the company has grown to an impressive 50 events, spanning 7 countries and 3 continents, with over 2 million devoted “Mudders” worldwide. Whilst obstacles vary between courses (with roughly 20-25 per course in total), a few have turned into absolute staples, becoming trademarks of the Tough Mudder name. “Arctic Enema” is one such obstacle, comprising both a physical and mental test in which participants plunge into freezing ice water, submerging for a few meters before hoisting themselves onto dry land (harder than it sounds when every muscle in your body has instantly locked from the intense cold!). “Electroshock Therapy” and “Everest” (which evolved into “Everest 2.0” last year; you know, just in case the original wasn’t tough enough) have also become firm favourites, with the former consisting of 1,000 suspended electronic cables, carrying 10,000 volts of electricity, which participants must sprint through whilst constantly being jolted in the process. Of course, a plethora of other obstacles exist, which involve swimming, carrying, climbing and crawling, all while being caked in mud (as you may have guessed, this event involves a lot of mud… so, SO much mud). Indeed, Tough Mudder’s tagline is “probably the toughest event on the planet,” so why on Earth would anybody want to do it? And more importantly, why should you?
- Tough Mudder mixes up your routine.
Let’s face it, most of us are guilty of staying inside our fitness comfort zone. We’ve found a sport we love and we stick to it. Whilst this is by no means a bad thing, it might also not be the greatest, for neither our fitness levels nor our willpower.
However, by testing both cardiovascular ability and physical strength, Tough Mudder is sure to shake up even the biggest exercise enthusiast’s routine, improving strength for runners and cardio for gym bunnies. Furthermore, not only will training for a Tough Mudder substantially increase your overall fitness, you may also discover a passion for a form of exercise you’ve never tried before, or previously dismissed, whilst the event itself is ideal for those fed up with the usual fitness “challenges” such as 10Ks.
- It’s not only your physical strength that’ll be pushed to the limit.
Tough Mudder is genuinely as much of a mental challenge as it is a physical one. Both tackling phobias (water, fire, heights, enclosed spaces and even suffocation) alongside the extreme willpower, tenacity, and unrivalled determination it’ll take to complete such a lengthy and varied course, will truly test your mental strength. Case in point: when you reach “Balls to the Wall” you lost all feeling in your arms three miles back and realise there’s still four more climbing obstacles to go…
- You’ll experience a “race” atmosphere like no other.
Arguably Tough Mudder’s greatest feature, and what truly sets it apart from other fitness events, is its repeated emphasis on camaraderie over competition. As opposed to running races, which often foster a sense of “every man for himself,” Tough Mudder refreshingly, and repeatedly, encourages teamwork between strangers and friends alike. All entrants must pledge to put not only their own team but “the good of all Mudders” before both themselves and their finish time, whilst Tough Mudder officials rate camaraderie as crucial a skill as agility, strength and grit. The result is a totally unique “race” atmosphere, with no competitiveness, no judgement, and significantly less pressure, allowing you to enjoy the event rather than obsess over a number on a clock! Indeed, all participants feel like one big family, and it’s this sense of community that helps you cross the finish line, both physically and mentally.
- Tough Mudder is FUN!
Yep, you read that right; voluntarily taking part in a four-hour endurance test where you’ll be gassed, electrocuted, caked in mud, freeze, push every muscle in your body to the breaking point, and run until you can’t feel your legs, is actually a ton of fun. Never before have I witnessed so many smiles or so much laughter during a fitness event. Besides, not all obstacles are taxing; some are downright enjoyable. For example, “King of the Swingers,” where participants must leap from a 12ft platform, latch onto a metal arm, and do their best Tarzan-style swing before flinging themselves into a lake; come on, this is the stuff the little kid inside you would kill to do!
- And if the above isn’t enough, do it for the post-race beer .
Seriously, the post-race atmosphere is just as awesome as the event itself. Crossing the finish line, receiving your trademark Tough Mudder headband as you’re handed an ice-cold beer, your teammates around you, grinning from ear to ear as you watch the swarms of elated “I can’t believe I just did that” faces; well, it doesn’t get much better than that.
So if you’re looking for a new and exciting fitness challenge, take my advice and consider Tough Mudder; nothing will make you feel as strong, empowered, and downright badass. Probably the toughest event on the planet? Perfect for the toughest chicks on the planet!