Instead of using your body the way nature intended—taxing all the muscles in it while exposing it to the elements—you’re probably parked in front of a computer most of the day. Even if you go to the gym four or more times a week, the monotony of the daily grind begins to take a toll. Spend enough time in your windowless cube and you start to feel less than human and more like a pale extension of your mouse and keyboard.
Its such a departure from crawling in the grass, climbing trees, hopping fences, and coming home covered in mud—the cycle of activity that defined childhood for many of us. But with the rise in popularity of endurance- and obstacle-based races like Tough Mudder, Warrior Dash, and Spartan Race, its easier than ever to get dirty and challenge your body the way you used to—all while feeling like a total badass.
The events in this rapidly growing category have become the hottest fitness trend in the nation outside of CrossFit, and with good reason: They tap into our innate desire to push our bodies to the limit and be one with nature. In broad strokes, these races are simply a distance run with obstacles. You’re guaranteed to get sweaty, dirty—and maybe even a little bloody—while also getting one of the most unique workouts of your life.
Some races are three miles long; others can be up to 13 miles-plus. The distance running alone can be a challenge, especially if you’re a cardio-averse iron addict. But the obstacles ensure that you’re doing more than just cardio. Some of the more common ones are wall climbs, ranging from three to 10 feet high, sandbag carries, sled drags, cargo net climbs, and mud crawls—some that require you to crawl under barbed wire, others that have you navigating a ravine filled with jagged rocks. Certain challenges require strength—like carrying buckets of rocks uphill, hoisting sandbags onto your shoulders for portions of the race, and dragging sleds or cinder blocks through mud.
Races are often held at ski resorts, which leads to the biggest obstacle for most anyone who participates—the elevation climbs. Getting up hills as steep as black diamonds can wipe you out before you even reach the obstacles if you don’t have a good base of endurance.
Preparing for an athletic event that requires such a diverse array of fitness qualities—strength, explosive power, and cardiovascular endurance—requires a training regimen that is equally diverse, and we’ve got all your bases covered here with this four-week program. This template provides a perfect balance of strength and endurance training. Since these races take place outdoors, it’s good if you can get outdoors to train. If you take a kettlebell, a sandbag, a pair of dumbbells, and a weight sled to an outdoor area, the whole thing can be done outside. But, if you’re like many guys and lack the outdoor space, the entire workout can also be performed in a gym setting, as we illustrate here. At the very least, strive to complete the running portion of the program outdoors. No treadmill can properly approximate a hill run.
Wherever you get the work done, we guarantee you’ll be physically prepared for one of the most demanding—and exhilarating—athletic events of your life. Good luck.