Tough Mudder Snowmass comes to town in about six weeks, so now is the ideal time to get ready, mentally and physically. And unless you’re a Navy SEAL, don’t let the costumes fool you: It's not an event to take lightly, with a course that’s notoriously challenging even by Tough Mudder standards. At more than 8,000 feet in elevation, the course has 25 obstacles and hazards along the 10-plus mile route that winds its way up and down Snowmass mountain. And that’s not to mention the elevation, which can pose a major setback, especially for out-of-town athletes.
Even so, don’t let those stats deter you from taking a crack at it. As organizers emphasize, Tough Mudder is not a race—it’s a challenge, and contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to be an elite athlete to reach the finish line. You just need to be in decent physical shape—more on that below—and have a lot of determination to go along with it.
Fortunately, Aspen-area Mudders have a leg up, with the bounty of trails and training options around town. Here, some helpful training tips for the Tough Mudder Snowmass .
Run up a local mountain.
Start off with a trail run to warm up, like Ajax Trail or the Smuggler, which are perfect options for loosening up the muscles and preparing for more intense training runs. Try an easy grade jog on these routes and build from there, keeping in mind not to go out too fast if you’re not quite where you want to be fitness-wise. You don’t want to derail your Tough Mudder into a Tough (Break) Mudder with an injury.
Hop, skip, and jump, too.
While you’re building up your trail runs, remember the Mudder doesn't just demand endurance: It is also about variety. Start to incorporate a variety of movements and muscle groups into your runs with jumps, squats, push-ups, and sprint bursts.
Add in some altitude.
For endurance training, add more elevation gain to your routes on trails like the Rim Trail or the Ute Trail . The Ute Trail is a steep track featuring sharp switchbacks, plus large rooks and rocks in some places, plus an ascent of 700 feet in less than a mile. Challenge yourself to run the whole way up and down. When you’re ready, follow the trail another 2,300 feet to the summit of Aspen Mountain to acclimatize to the elevation gain you’ll experience on the course.
Take your training to the water.
A mistake some first-time Mudders make is forgetting that the course isn’t just about running; It also features some challenging water (and, of course, muddy) obstacles. Switch up your training while continuing to build your fitness at the Aspen Recreation Center’s pool. Swimming laps will certainly help build overall physical and cardiovascular strength, but to really train Mudder-style, you should mix it up. Try the breast stroke without using your legs, instead focusing on just arm strength—which will come in handy for obstacles like the Boa Constrictor or Kiss of Mud. Another ideal training strategy is upright running in the pool to get a resistance workout, which is good prep for the Mud Mile.
Go for an icy plunge.
The heated water of the Recreation Center is nothing compared to the icy plunge of the pools on the Tough Mudder course. Luckily, there are plenty of high alpine lakes to jump into the snowmelt and get a taste of how cold the course will be. Weller Lake is a perfect trail to bring it all together. It is only about a 0.6-mile run with a vertical gain of 200 feet, so jog to the lake mixing in diverse movements and sprints, and then leap into the frigid lake at the end of the trail.
Train with teammates.
While reaching the Tough Mudder is certainly a personal victory in itself, the event is all about teamwork. Unless you’ve got an upper body like Popeye, you’ll need the help of your teammates to complete obstacles like the notorious Everest, a slick, sloped wall that reaches vertical that participants have to run up, and Cliffhanger, where forming a chain link of fellow participants slowly inching up the slope is the only way up and over.
So it’s a great strategy to train with your teammates (or recruit a team from scratch) as much as possible. It will be difficult to exactly replicate the Mudder obstacles but head to a nearby park or playground—Yellow Brick Park is a great spot—and try your hand at scaling fences, balancing, and upper-arm exercises like the monkey bars. Although you might get some raised eyebrows, such exercises will come in handy on race day.
And don’t forget to wear a team costume—even if it’s something as simple as a bright headband with your team name. Not only will costumes help you spot your teammates in all the mud, but if you get creative enough, you just might bring home an award.