Smart Injury Free Mud Run Racing

Source: Pixabay

This Saturday’s Tough Mudder- Jacksonville is coming to town with lots of hype.  Known for it’s very original and tough-guy obstacles, the Tough Mudder has the local mudders nervous and excited….myself included.

For those of you preparing for your first race in the mud, you’re about to embark on the best workout and challenge of your life!  If you’re a veteran of obstacle races, every race provides you with an opportunity to test the toughness of both your body and your mind.  THAT’s why I continue to sign-up for these challenges and I’m sure I’m not alone in my reasoning.

Keeping it Safe

As a certified athletic trainer and physical therapist in the NFL for 25+ years, I’ve learned a thing or two about staying healthy.  I want to share tips to keep you safe racing in a mud run.  Getting to the finish line is your goal while getting you to that finish line healthy is my goal.

Here’s a few simple sports medicine tips to keep you safer on “race day.”

Before the Mud Run Race…..

Grease Up – Blisters can quickly ruin a great race.  Coating Vaseline on toes, inner thighs and anywhere necessary will enhance your comfort on race day.

Don’t Be a Sponge – Wear thin socks, water-friendly boots/sneakers, non-cotton pants and a thin shirt to avoid carrying an extra 4-5 lbs during the race.

Rollin’ Time – Using a therapy roller before all workouts and races will mobilize your muscles and help you prevent injuries.

Push the Carbs – Bagels, whole-grain cereals and pasta are all smart options. Stop being a “carb hater” and load up the type of fuel that you’ll need during your race.

Be Nice to Your Dogs – Find the right kind of supportive high-top racing shoes and break them in well before the race. Wear thin calf-high socks to reduce your chance of calf and arch strains.

Plank Time – I learned this the hard way. You’ll be doing lots of crawling during the race so performing a few front and side planks before the race.  This will help you engage your entire core musculature for the big race.

During the Mud Run Race…..

Drink Early & Often – In any weather, you need fluids early & often.  A smart plan I use with my professional football players is: “Drink 50% water/50% sports drink before, during & after game day.”  This plan will give you the 4 essentials needed for a hard-working body: fluids, salt, calories and electrolytes.

Smart Footing – Running a more level “line” is not always easy to do with hundreds of athletes around you in the mud.  I rolled my ankle twice in mud runs and both times are when I wasn’t paying attention to where I was running.  A shorter and wider stride will keep your ankles and knees safer on slippery and muddy surfaces.

Climb to the Bottom – I know lots of orthopedic surgeons and lets just say that many of them get lots of customers from mud runs.  Jumping down or climbing off an obstacle is a very common mechanism of injury for mudders.  The solution: Climb down to the bottom of the ladder or obstacle.  Avoid the urge to jump down the last 5 feet just to save an extra few seconds.

Jump Out, Not Down – Water is a common theme in mud races.  Jumping out over the water is safer than jumping down into the edge of the water.  Entering the water away from the closest shore will minimize your risk of being landed on and cut down on your time in the water.

Check out the Scenery During the Race – How is that going to keep me healthy?  High fiving the crowd and thanking the volunteers are two proven examples of ways to slow down, enjoy the fitness fun of a great event and to keep you in the mindset of reaching the end of the race healthy & happy.

Go Time…..

It’s time to get muddy and have some fun.  I hope these tips help keep you healthy and make your race what it’s supposed to be: a fun fitness challenge for you and your friends!

Stay Healthy & Happy!

How I Got My Ass Kicked in a Mud Run

Source: Pixabay
Source: Pixabay

Last weekend was the big local mud run, the MuckFest MS here in Jacksonville, Florida. It’s a great event thoroughly embraced by the local community to raising money for Multiple Sclerosis.

This was my fifth year in a row running the wonderful event. Last year I won the competitive division so I was very excited to race this year with the opportunity to defend my title.

That didn’t happen!

What did happen was I got my ass kicked….and I loved it.  I had to literally dive across the finish line to tie for third place, while my chip time earned me fourth-place.

Finishing video:  Mud Run Ryan Jax 2013

As crazy as it sounds, I actually had more fun battling it out for second place with Jesse Davis and Ashton Manly this year than I did winning the race solo last year. The truth of the matter is it’s the competition and the challenges that gets me excited to both train and race.

I tip my hat to Joe Rivera who demonstrated his fitness, his ex-Marine toughness and his competitive nature in winning this year’s race.  He ran hard from start to finish and earned the victory.

Lessons Learned for This Mudder

I learned a lot from last week and race that will make me better mud racer in the future. I like to share those lessons with you.

1.  Train Your Engine Like You Race Your Engine

I have a great running group here in Ponte Vedra Beach that I trained with 2-3 times per week. We get great distance work in but mud runs are very stop and go races.

Getting long slow distance is perfect to build the base but if your race is higher intensity with short intervals, you need to train that way. In other words I didn’t train my body/legs/heart to go to 90% effort and then allow my heart rate to go down to approximate 50% as it will when I’m was maneuvering an obstacle in the race.

2.  Air Is Thinner Than Water

This one sounds too simple but it could have saved me 5 to 20 seconds per obstacle. It’s a lot easier to sail through the air than it is to trudge through water and mud.

Jump as far as possible out over the water to shorten the distance I needed to do to get out of the mud and water.  Increasing your distance through the air will decrease your time in the water and significantly shorten how long it takes you to exit the obstacle.

3.  Attack the Obstacles Or They’ll Attack You

I lost second place in last weekend’s race because of my effort on the last three obstacles. If I had been more aggressive attacking the last three obstacles, it would have given me ample time to solidify the silver medal position.

A higher tempo approach on the challenges will help you carry more momentum through the obstacle and keep you sharper when you start to run again. I think this has a lot to do with having an offensive mindset instead of a defense of mindset on challenging obstacles.

4.  Know the Home Stretch

I didn’t know all the obstacles in the last half-mile the race and that was a mistake. Briefly seeing what’s in store for the last part of a race is a smart decision. Knowing that homestretch prior to the race is a much-needed confidence booster during the middle race when things start to get tough.

Mudder Closing

Mud racing is one of the fastest growing sports in the world for good reason. Learning ways to make it more fun and safer for my readers is very important for me.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on valuable tips and suggestions that you’ve learned from your workouts and races.  Please share your thoughts.  Stay healthy and happy, MDR.


How Fitness Embraces Failure

“Why Fitness Rocks”

by Paul Phillips –


As of today, 900 is the total number of burpees I have left to complete the 5K Burpee Challenge for March. This challenge has proved very difficult for me. Despite tweaking my approach each day and growing very efficient at the burpee exercise, my biggest hurdle has been setting aside the time to do them. In reality, I can do a couple hundred burpees in 25-minutes or less now. But, I’ve skipped a few days here and there that really dented my progress.

To compound matters, I slipped and fell on my ass this past Sunday. Actually, I landed on my hand and banged my knee pretty hard. The knee still works, but my right wrist is still a bit sore. I managed to eek out 300 burpees last night, but with the ABF 10K Mud Run this Saturday, I don’t have a lot of room for another slip-up (pun intended)!

Close But No Cigar

One thing I just won’t do is quit. I’m so close to completing the Challenge that, naturally, falling short would be a disappointment. But, whether or not I complete 5,000 burpees by March 31, the Challenge has been a great success. You see, I’ve learned to recognize that there is no shame in failing. In fact, failing at something is one of the most important things we can do to ultimately succeed…

Why Failure Rocks

Many people are good at what they do. But most people didn’t get good by being good all the time; instead, they likely failed several times along the way. You see, failure means that you tried something out-of-the-ordinary, outside your skill-set, or away from your comfort zone. If you failed at something, it means you tried something amazing and fell short. But that rocks!

In weight-lifting, “going to failure” means you perform as many repetitions of a given exercise with a given weight until you just can’t do anymore. In these terms, failure is a benchmark for putting forth an enormous amount of effort and skill in order to test your limits. Once you fail, you then have the opportunity to evaluate your journey, learn from your mistakes, and see how you can adapt or improve so that you can be even more epic the next time around. If you’re not failing, you’re likely not traveling too far out of your comfort zone. That’s when things get stale.

It’s easy to “succeed” when you don’t challenge yourself. Given enough “success,” you might find that you are no longer moving forward, evolving, nor growing. Have you peaked or have you just started to deteriorate?

Do Epic Work!

Hybrid Athlete Joe Vennare likes to use two simple words to motivate: “Do work!” I’d like to add a third: “Do EPIC work!” Do epic work and you are bound to fail. Fail so that you can learn, grow, and reach new limits. If at first you DO succeed, try to FAIL again.