With the ever growing popularity of urban races such as Tough Mudder, Spartan Run and Warrior Dash, the need and demands for proper training is exponentially growing. Though these races are all very different, they have one common denominator: it involves running in the mud. A lot of it. Running on this type of surface can be quite challenging. Mike Silverman, physical therapist, marathon runner and Tough Mudder enthusiast, offers these tips to run more effectively while avoiding potential injury.
Shoes: Running in the mud is an obstacle in itself while participating in a race. The mud creates a suction that will often dislodge your shoes. Make sure to double knot your laces or use lace locks to help prevent this. Also, getting used to running with heavier feet will prevent injuries from occurring. Soak your shoes with water before putting them on, allowing your body to get used to how heavy your feet are going to feel while running through the mud.
Clothing: These types of runs often require the runner to run around very wet. Wearing heavy clothes will weigh you down. Running in form fitting, dry fit clothing will help prevent this.
Training Surface: Running in mud will not be on even surface, so stop training on one. Go out and find uneven areas to practice running on such as parks, dirt trails or the beach. This will allow your body to get used to the demands that running through the mud entails, especially your ankles. Training on these different surfaces will also improve you overall balance.
Hill Training: To get used to the fatigue that comes with running in the mud, challenge yourself by incorporating hill training into your run. Find a good hill in your area and after jogging a few miles as a warm-up, sprint up the hill and jog back down. Do this several times to get your quadriceps ready for the demands of running in the mud. Remember, when running in the mud, your body will be in varying degrees of fatigue, and training in a fatigued state will help increase your overall physical endurance.
Plyometrics: Running in the mud demands quite a bit of explosive power from your legs. Practicing a variety of jump-related activities, i.e. box jumps, jump rope and high knees, will help get your body ready for the race. When running through the mud, you will need to constantly keep your feet moving to propel you forward; practicing these plyometrics will help you achieve that.
Michael Silverman, PT, MSPT, USATF-1, is a physical therapist at Hospital for Special Surgery‘s James M. Benson Sports Rehabilitation Center, specializing in rehabilitation for runners and other performance athletes. He has a special interest in running-form analysis, which he performs at the Tisch Performance Center at Hospital for Special Surgery.