Popularity Grows with Obstacle Course Style Mud Run Events

Whether it’s the Tough Mudder, Dirty Girl Mud Run or the upcoming Warrior Princess Mud Run in New London to benefit Harbor House Domestic Abuse Programs, participants are ready to get down and get dirty!

These courses have participants of all fitness levels running, walking, crawling and climbing through mud pits and water, over towers and anything else that will challenge and thrill.

“The whole concept of a race with obstacles like mud pits and flaming bales of hay to jump over is so outrageous that people see it as more fun than running five or ten miles on asphalt,” said Dan Sutton, MD, ThedaCare Physicians-Waupaca. “It is buried deeper in some of us than others, but we all have our inner childhood selves and what kid wouldn’t love running through a pit of mud and climbing a giant wall?”

“I also think that the obstacles help take away from the monotony of a pure running race,” added Dr. Sutton. “Running can get boring for some, so if there are 10 or 12 unique challenges for them to conquer before moving on to the next, that might be less daunting than running non-stop for 30 or 60 minutes.”

While these types of races may be fun and exciting, and popular among all age and fitness levels, there is some amount of caution needed to prevent injuries.

“The philosophy behind mud runs is to challenge both mind and body. The mud run tests every muscle, bone, and ounce of willpower,” said Richard Canlas, MD, musculoskeletal and sports medicine physician at ThedaCare Orthopedic Care in New London, a sponsor with New London Family Medical Center and ThedaCare Physicians for the Warrior Princess.  

Proper training, diet and other tips will ensure participants “have a great experience and are ready for a down and dirty mud run,” said Dr. Canlas.

Dr. Sutton agreed. “Just like a running race, I would not advise someone to attempt a race like this unprepared,” he said. “Not only should a person have the aerobic fitness, or stamina, for one of these, but the obstacles present unique opportunities for injuries and need to be prepared for properly.”

Here are a few tips to prepare for an obstacle course type event.

Pick Your Battle

“Pick a race that suits your fitness level and sounds the most fun,” said Dr. Canlas.

Dr. Sutton agreed. “I would recommend selecting a race based on the distance initially, particularly for those who are not terribly strong runners to begin with,” he said, noting a 5K or 8K race is a good option. 


Train well in advance of the race or run the risk of injury, said Dr. Canlas. And also train true. “Functional training should mimic complex movements found on the mud run course,” said Dr. Canlas. For instance, for strength do crunches to target the front of your abs, bicycle crunches for your obliques, and superman for your lower back.

Strength training is key for these events, said Dr. Sutton. “Most of these involve scaling a wall with a rope, scurrying under barbed wire, running through a mud pit, and crossing an obstacle similar to monkey bars,” he said. “It would behoove a person to be doing regular exercises such as pushups, pull-ups, and possibly some activity such as yoga or Pilates which help work on both flexibility and strength. You might even want to find a playground with some monkey bars and practice on these, as this can help with grip and upper body strength.”

Also try out your running gear under muddy race conditions. “Jump into a pond or lake, then go for a run” said Dr. Canlas.

Clothing should consist of long pants or running tights, shorts under pants, thick socks and trail or running shoes. Do not wear sunglasses or goggles and bring a bag for dirty clothes and a change of clothes, including shoes.


It is important to eat a balanced, natural state diet including lots of fruits, vegetables, complex carbohydrates, and a moderate amount of lead protein and healthy fats, said Dr. Canlas.

For hydration, drink water alone for events less than one hour and water and sports drinks for events over an hour long.

“Even though these tend to be more fun runs, one needs to pay just as close of attention to hydration and be sure to be drinking fluids the night before and morning of, as well as after,” said Dr. Sutton.

Day of the event

Eat a meal the night before the event that contains a significant portion of carbohydrates and protein. Three to four hours before the competition, eat foods that can be easily digested, like carbohydrates.

Do warm up and stretches. “This will improve your flexibility and reduce chances of injury,” said Dr. Canlas.

Also listen to your body. “Slow down or walk if needed,” said Dr. Canlas.


When you crawl through the tunnels and under the wires, do a bear crawl. “Do not crawl on your knees or you will scrape them on small rocks,” said Dr. Canlas.

Proceed with caution when approaching the water obstacles. “Don’t run through the middle of the creeks or mud pits where they can get deep,” said Dr. Canlas, instead advising to run along the shallowest sides, the edges. Also, “there may be unexpected divots and holes in the creeks and in the mud pits.”


After the race, cool down with stretches. “Hold a stretch for 30 seconds as it takes time for your muscles to respond and adjust to changes in tension and length,” said Dr. Canlas. “This will help improve and maintain flexibility, relax tired muscles, and reduce soreness the next couple of days.”

Drink plenty of water and eat foods with proper nutrients like protein, supportive carbohydrates and healthy fats.

Allow for recovery time, following the rule for every mile ran on race day requires one day of rest. “You put your body through an intense workout,” said Dr. Canlas. “Allow your body a chance to recover and rest.”

Treat Yourself

“Completing a mud run is a great accomplishment,” said Dr. Canlas. “Treat yourself to a massage. It feels great and will help you recover faster.”