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Injury Prevention – Obstacle Race Training & Beyond

9 Feb 2012

Having to sign “You May Die” waivers may make a few people hesitate before registering for a mud run like the Tough Mudder, Spartan Race, or other obstacle race.

We’ve heard of serious injuries and even fatalities. Not too long ago, one mud run participant’s body was found near the course.

Although fatalities and serious injuries are extreme and rare scenarios, we know the hazards of the challenges posed by obstacle races.

But we’re still going to help our fellow mud runners scale steep walls, crawl through muddy tunnels, and race our way to the finish line of our favorite obstacle races.

The best we can do is prepare for the hazards and reduce the chances of injury. This starts your training program and extends to your mudder.

Here are some tips for preventing injuries. Even though they’ll come in handy for your Tough Mudder training and other obstacle race workout programs, they’re good to keep in mind for all your athletic pursuits.


Injury Prevention: In-Gym Training

The warm-up: it’s more than arm swings and a few jumping jacks.

To warm-up properly, be sure to include two segments: 1) a general warm-up like a jog or simple body-weight exercises for 5-8 minutes and 2) a specific warm-up with some flexibility and easier versions the exercises you plan to complete during your workout.

Why both?

The general warm-up will increase your core temperature, which will help get your blood flowing and ready for a challenging workout. The specific warm-up will help you prepare the specific muscles you’ll be engaging during the work bout of your training session.

Here’s an example of a complete warm-up if you have planned a total body resistance training day:

General Warm-Up:
5 minutes of jogging

Specific Warm-Up:
8 reps of each exercise
1. Leg Swings (forward & side)
2. Lunges
3. Squats
4. Arm Circles
5. Single Leg Squats
6. Medicine Ball Choppers or Overhead Presses with a Medicine Ball


The workout: the work bout of your training session will do more than help you reach peak form.

Training specifically for your activity will help you prevent injuries as you train the specific movements and muscles that will be engaged on race day.

Be sure to move through an exercise’s full range of motion, using proper form. Once your form starts to give out, stop.

Using proper form will help you engage the correct muscles to be called upon during your run and obstacles and keep you from getting injured from your actual training session! The last thing you want is to let substandard form hurt you before your race.


The cool-down: hold static stretches and foam roll.

You may already stretch out for your cool-down. Your cool-down may consist of a few stretches you hold for “30 seconds” (or at least try to gather the patience to hold for that long).

Try to hold a stretch for 20-30 seconds as it takes some time for your trained muscles to respond and adjust to changes in tension and length. Include stretches for all the muscle groups your worked during your training session. This will help you improve and maintain flexibility as well as relax your tired muscles. Static stretches may also help reduce soreness the next couple days.

Beyond static stretching, you can also include foam rolling (or self-myofascial release). Foam rolling will help you massage muscles that are especially tight. For more on foam rolling, you can check out one of my previous posts on self-myofascial release.


Injury Prevention: Outdoor Training

If you take your training outdoors, which you most likely will for running or obstacle race training, keep these tips in mind.

Be aware of surroundings during outdoor runs.

Especially if you take your run off the trail. You may want to adjust the volume of your iPod so you can hear if cars are approaching.


If it’s a long run, make plans to drink water either during or immediately after.

Wear the proper footwear.

Leave the old sneakers for the Mudder, train hard in the right shoes.


Injury Prevention: Event Day

Be mindful of your surroundings and the challenges posed by obstacle.

It doesn’t hurt to do some homework ahead of time. Check out your race’s website for more on planned obstacles so you get an idea of what to expect. Read feedback and reviews from those who have already done your obstacle course race of choice.

Also, exercise common sense on game day when facing each obstacle.

Pace yourself.

Listen to your body, especially if you are racing on a hot, summer day. If it’s your first race, focus on safety and completion. Once you’ve completed your first race, you can aim for improving your time for your next mud run.

Slow down when you hit muddy patches.

Mud, sand, slosh, etc. all tend to slow down your pace. You can try to fight it and power through, but in doing so, you run two risks: 1) wearing yourself out and 2) losing your footing, possibly causing a foot/ankle injury. To conserve your energy and keep your joints intact, take your time over muddy terrain.

Rehydrate during & after.

Speak up to event organizers if there isn’t enough water.

Lastly, and simple enough, enjoy & celebrate the finish!



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