How To Survive A Fitness Challenge Like Tough Mudder

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As we all embark on our various summer fitness plans, we caught up with Tough Mudder Ambassador and leading Irish fitness expert Pat Divilly to tell us how one might go about surviving such a grueling challenge.

Tough Mudder, is it something that anyone can achieve?

Absolutely! It takes some preparation but undoubtedly it's attainable for anyone. Though I'm a personal trainer I've never been a fan of long distance running. I've ran a few Tough Mudders and thoroughly enjoyed them and ran a half marathon which, though the same distance, I found a lot tougher. The beauty of Tough Mudder is that it is a team event where no one is running for time and everyone is out to help everyone. Some people will find the running tough and the experienced runners will find the obstacles to be their challenge- but everyone on the course is out to have fun and help one another. I had 540 people run as part of my team last year from people in their late teens to those in their late 60s, and every one of the 540 crossed the finish line. Anyone can do it!

What kind of training needs to be done in advance?


Though the event itself is around 20km, it is broken up with around the same number of obstacles so typically you'll run or jog around a kilometer and then tackle an obstacle. You'll catch your breath whilst helping and encouraging other participants over the obstacle. Then you'll be back jogging again and going in a start stop motion for the race. With that in mind I'd be telling people that if you can jog or run 8km without stopping and have some upper body strength from push ups and other strength training exercises you'll be more than ready!

For those who've never done it, how terrifying/awful/brilliant is it?

The first time I brought a group to Tough Mudder 2 years ago there were 15 of us and we had no idea what we were getting ourselves into. We had the best day ever! In the last two years I've brought over 1000 people to these races and the first timers always have some nerves which I think is great. The camaraderie and fun that they have during the course is like something they'll have never experienced and watching people cross the lines with tears of joy and smiling ear to ear is amazing!



What should people be doing food wise in advance of a challenge like this?

My main rule of thumb year round with regard to nutrition is to limit intake of processed food and focus on a 'caveman' style diet focusing on meats, seafood, fish, vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds and other 'single ingredient' foods. In the run up to Tough Mudder it would be much the same. 2-3 liters of water a day and plenty of single ingredient foods. No need to count calories, just focus on eating like our grandparents would have eaten. If the food label has dozens of ingredients it's probably not good for you, if it has one ingredient it probably is! In the 2 days before Tough Mudder I'd be encouraging people to have generous servings of potatos, rice, porridge, sweet potato of fruit with breakfast lunch and dinner and the morning of the event I'd have some fruit and plenty of water.


People seem to load up on protein and chicken breasts etc., is this wise?

Protein's role is to help with muscle recovery and people put alot of focus on its importance, but healthy fats and carbohydrates will be of equal importance in training for and competing in an event like Tough Mudder. Again each meal should have a protein source from fish, seafood, meat or eggs, a large serving of vegetables or salad, some healthy fats from oils, nuts or seeds and some carbohydrate in the form of fruit, porridge, sweet potato or rice.

What's your take on protein shakes?

Protein shakes are a convenient way of getting a serving of protein in after a training session. In an ideal world we'd all be eating organic real food sources with every meal but after a tough training session or as a snack between meals protein shakes can be a nice filer that helps aid in muscle recovery.

For someone who just wants to maintain their fitness/weight etc, is there an ideal amount or type of exercise that should be achieved each day or week to just be generally healthy?

My biggest advice with exercise is to shoot for a minimum of 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise 4-5 times a week. Moderate intensity means you get your heart rate up and break a sweat. That doesn't have to be the gym. I believe that someone who forces them self to go the gym is never going to see success in the long term as they'll never sustain something long term that they don't enjoy. Instead find a form of exercise you enjoy and run with it. It could be horse riding, martial arts, beginners, gymnastics, anything! When you enjoy an activity you want to get better at it and you stay consistent long term.

What's your mental mantra during Tough Mudder?


The way to'see it is that you are running through mud and muck for 3 hours, having fun with your friends, and meeting new, like minded people. Once the race finishes you'll be back to the real world so you might aswell enjoy every step of the 20km journey and not be concerned with how quick you finish.

What do people need to keep in mind on the morning of Tough Mudder?

There will always be some nervous energy but I always tell people to think about the 10s of thousands of people who have done Tough Mudder all over the world and have gotten through it and had a blast doing it! Again, when else are you going to get a chance to run around with your friends, care free, and feel like a kid again without a worry in the world?!

Do you have one key piece of advice for surviving Tough Mudder?

My biggest advise would be to help the people around you. I know people who have sprinted through the courses and missed out on what Tough Mudder is about. It's some of the last people to cross the line that have the most enjoyable experience by helping and being helped by other people.

After thrilling 5,000 participants at its debut event last year, Tough Mudder returns to Ireland for the second time Saturday and Sunday 11th and 12th July, with all new obstacles set to thrill. Set very near one of Ireland's and the world's oldest cemeteries, the Loughcrew Cairns in Co. Meath, this course is packed with variety - including all new obstacles set amongst thick mud, rolling hills and deep woods.

Inspiring over a million participants worldwide to date, Tough Mudder is the premier adventure challenge series in the world. In 2015, Tough Mudder events around the world will feature a course full of world-class obstacles designed to test both physical and mental strength. More than 90% of participants are expected to register as part of a team and to encourage teamwork and camaraderie over competition, the events remain untimed. For further information, head to To win, please like and share this on Facebook!


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