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How to Survive a Ragnar or Tough MudderFitness fanatics know that obstacle courses like Tough Mudders, and endurance events like the Ragnar Relays, have grown increasingly popular as people seek to push themselves while enjoying the camaraderie of a team. As HIIT and CrossFit WODs promote overcoming intense challenges, individuals are embracing recreational adventures to put their abilities to a new test.

While these races stimulate anticipation, they also can be intimidating. If you are considering a Tough Mudder or Ragnar Relay, you can find information and training plans online, and try to talk with people who have completed these events.

We spoke with one tough chick who has mastered both of these challenges, among others, and here, she shares about how to survive a Ragnar Relay or Tough Mudder. While the races are different, both require a positive attitude, big-time stamina, surviving outside your comfort zone and an ability to adapt.

Ragnar Relay

In a Ragnar Relay, teams of 12 people with two support vans run some 200 miles from point A to point B over two days and one night. Only one runner at a time covers legs ranging from 3-13 miles, and runs three times, overall averaging about 17 total miles for the entire race.

While one individual runs, other team members in the van offer support and eventually exchange runners. Eating happens in the van, and sleeping is a definite challenge.

For training, ideally allow for 8-12 weeks running, gradually building up mileage according to your base fitness level and running experience. It’s a good idea to run in the heat to acclimate your body to high temperatures and humidity, since these are a given during Ragnar Relays. Practice wearing a hydration belt or pack so you can easily access water while on the move.

Because you’ll be running at night, take some training runs then – at midnight, perhaps – wearing a headlamp and adjusting to finding your footing on various surfaces without the daylight. You may have to slow your pace a bit to accommodate for this.

Also, practice eating foods that you’ll have in the van to see how your stomach tolerates items like granola bars, peanut butter sandwiches, trail mix, bananas, crackers, beef jerky and energy drinks. 

Tough Mudder

A traditional Tough Mudder is a 10-12-mile muddy course with 20+ obstacles “designed to get your out of your comfort zone.” While obstacles continually change, some can include swinging ropes, monkey bars, wall climbs, ice water plunges, Army crawls under barbed wire and deep mud pits.

A minimum of 8-10 weeks of training is recommended, including a lot of running, since the race keeps you on the move. Upper-body and core strength is essential on many obstacles, so strength training is necessary, including body weight exercises such as push-ups, pull-ups, planks, crunches and more. Take on box jumps, battle ropes, jump rope, kettlebell swings, burpees, mountain climbers, jump squats, power lunges and other punishing calisthenics.

Or enroll in a boot camp or obstacle course training class, where you climb walls, traverse the monkey bars, run carrying logs and more – all of which come in handy on race day. Tough Mudder offers many training suggestions online and its own boot camp tailored to overcoming its challenges.

As for what to wear, you’ll probably ditch your shoes at the end, so an old pair is best. Compression, quick-drying shorts and shirts are best, and gloves are recommended to improve grip. Although clothes can come clean in the wash, of course, don’t wear your favorite T-shirt, which may never be the same.

The Ragnar Relay and the Tough Mudder are definitely experiences of a lifetime! Stay Fueled.