Team MudGear Blog

Mudman Reveals How to Conquer Your First Obstacle Race January 05 2016, 0 Comments

A Mudman Pro Tip from Kevin "Mudman" LaPlatney 

  

first mud run2016 is here, and before we know it the obstacle racing season will be blooming with the Spring flowers (and mud). So if you’ve made it past the first step of New Year fitness Resolutions and signed up for your first OCR, congrats! Whether it’s a competitive BattleFrog or Spartan Race, or a more fun and party focused Tough Mudder or Warrior Dash, you probably have all kinds of jitters already on how to get ready for those miles of mud and obstacles. Of course, there are lots of hours and dollars to spend getting ready, but have no fear- here’s a simple list of “free” things you can do, to be ready physically and mentally for that starting line. 

If you haven’t joined the other thousands of new January gym goers (which honestly, might be the place to avoid this month!), know that running outside has and always will be free of charge! OCR’s are still races, and no matter how competitive you want to be, you’re looking at a minimum of 3 miles to cover in addition to all the other obstacle tasks. Even if you’re in colder climates, you’ll be glad if you had stuck to a minimum of 2 days a week running all winter. And of course, you’ll need to build up mileage to match the distance of that race coming up. But do so gradually, maybe by an extra 10% each week, so as not to burn yourself out or face some overuse injuries.

Besides running, the other half of obstacle races are in fact, the obstacles! Being prepared for the unexpected is the name of the game, as we never know what crazy loops the races will throw at us in 2016. Though it’s a bit of a gut check, working on any of your known weaknesses is key, whether that’s cardio (aka running), strength (lifting, carrying, pulling), agility (balance, focus), or other faces of fitness that you struggle with. What better time than a New Year Resolution to commit to building a better you, if you’ve been honest to assess where those weaknesses lie. If you don’t belong to a CrossFit gym or bootcamp, or have subscribed to any online training programs, my earlier article on outdoor workouts will give you some great ideas on how to get started at a local park or in your own backyard.

first mud runThe questions I get asked most often from rookie obstacle racers are something like “do
you really think I can do ABC race?” or “what if I can’t do XYZ obstacle”. My answer generally starts by saying that if you have already pysched yourself out, it’s going to be harder to get in good training and ever believe you are actually ready. There is a huge mental factor to obstacle racing, so you need to understand a few things:  

1. Yes, EVERYONE can do these races. I have literally seen folks from age 9 to 90 do some of the toughest events out there. There are racers with all kinds of setbacks and disabilities, but it sure doesn’t stop them. Thinking you can’t do ANYTHING is really just making an excuse. Take inspiration from the millions of people who have done these races, and get excited to soon be one of them!

2. OCRs are supposed to be hard, as is training for them. Don’t get intimidated by the look of brutal planned workout or the look of a nasty mountain to climb in a race. Those things are meant to test you and every other competitor alongside you. Embrace that challenge and it will make the finish line so much more satisfying!

first obstacle race3. Remember to compete with yourself and not to get too wrapped up in the timing chip or standings. This race is hopefully your stepping stone into much more of this awesome sport and community. Enjoy the camaraderie of fellow racers, appreciate the wonders of nature around you, and respect the plan that has been set up for you to enjoy a great day out with like-minded people, many of whom are just like you and doing their first race too. Before you know it, you’ll be one of the diehards pulling others in and giving the advice to OCR newbies! 


- Mudman

For more OCR training tips, get this powerful OCR Guide for free: Warrior Strong - How Elite Athletes Become Resilient to Injury in Obstacle Course Racing


    Reject Winter Hibernation and Gear Up - Get Massive Gains with Cold Weather Training December 18 2015, 0 Comments

    A Mudman Pro Tip from Kevin "Mudman" LaPlatney 

    Just because the weather has shifted and the OCR season has wrapped up in most parts of the country, that doesn’t mean that we have to resort to indoor gyms or fall into a winter fitness hibernation. The truth is, this “off-season” period is the most important time to focus on addressing weaknesses. You need to be building up your workout resume rather than succumbing to the urge to stay cozy on the couch through the holidays and stall on those New Year’s Resolutions. Plenty of off season training can (and should) take place out in the harsher weather and temps, and it’s smart to know how to gear up to make the most of those workout sessions.

    While the obvious focus is to stay warm, we also want to make sure we’re keeping our bodies protected while we’re out in the blustery wind or snow that everyone, except you lucky Floridians (?), might have to face for the next 3 or 4 months. I’ll admit that as a New Yorker I’m not a fan of the cold (and should indeed be a resident of the Panhandle State instead). So, although it’s not as fun as training in shorts and tee-shirt, bundling up a little will prevent everything from dangerous hypothermia or frostbite, to just annoying muscle strains or chafing.

     

    One of the biggest troubles I have in winter weather is quickly getting numb hands and fingers, so keeping them shielded from the cold will vastly improve the quality of an outdoor workout or run. I like to wear tough outdoor training gloves on these delicate hands when it’s even under 50 degrees, but I’ve discovered a training tip that with that extra layer, I have to work even harder to hold things (for a farmer carry, let’s say). So it’s almost intentional that gloves are sometimes part of the equipment, since it can benefit your grip strength for so many other obstacles you’ll face later, when you might not have have the gloves on.

    For the rest of your body, some simple rules apply. It’s no secret that you want to avoid cotton, which will only retain sweat and quickly zap you of body heat. Not mention the likelihood of a rash from chafing = not a good time! So, stick with more “tech” material and outdoor performance apparel, which will also be lighter and more comfortable. I also tend to overheat quickly, so I prefer to dress in layers that are easy to shed if needed. A good base layer is key, which can be top and/or bottom of tighter fitting compression gear, and at the very least will cut some of the wind-chill down. I get the same issue with my toes as I do with numb hands, so good outdoor performance socks are absolutely critical. Again - no cotton unless you really want some blistered up, raw, unhappy feet. And lastly, since we know body heat is primarily lost through the top of our head and I’ll sometimes even get a headache from prolonged exposure to cold, we want to keep our noggins and ears well covered. A fleece or wool hat is perfect, even if you have to take it off at some point from too much warmth, and a neck gaiter or balaclava can also be helpful for the chilliest temps.

     

    Though it might not exactly be considered “gear”, it’s also important to mention how sensitive our faces can be to the wind and elements, so never forget to bring some Chapstick in your pocket and maybe even apply some Vaseline to your cheeks and nose if they’re not already covered. It’s also never a bad idea to wear goggles or at least some (sun)glasses to block the wind and sun from your eyes, especially if snow on the ground is reflecting the light back at you, a bad recipe for squinting, headaches, and teary eyes that will only be distraction from enjoying your outdoor winter OCR training.

    There’s a lot of research in progress right now about the benefits of cold shock therapy and regular exposure to cold outdoor training. It can be hard to face the cold, but finishing a cold outdoor workout is invigorating in a way you just can’t replicate in the gym. Good luck and get out there!

    - Mudman

    For more OCR training tips, get this powerful OCR Guide for free: Warrior Strong - How Elite Athletes Become Resilient to Injury in Obstacle Course Racing


    Getting Back in the Race - Post Race Recovery December 04 2015, 0 Comments

    A Mudman Pro Tip from Kevin "Mudman" LaPlatney 


    No doubt you have all read some of these viral news articles on the extreme and terrible dangers of this scary sport called Obstacle Racing- everything from nasty skin infections to the possibility of death (you do sign a waiver after all). But the truth is that while injuries do occur, the vast majority of them are minor. Most can even be treated and dealt with on your own, and likely not miss too much training time or races. As an OCR athlete closing in on 100 career races, and by profession being a Certified Athletic Trainer for the last 16 years, I have had the circumstance to treat (too many!) injuries on myself and my patients, but can offer some basic care and ideas on how to not be on the shelf too long for these more common and less severe cases. Of course- and this also where I am going to sound like a pharmaceutical commercial- I still am obligated to tell you to seek advice from your physician on any injury or ailment you may be overly concerned about, so don’t be hero if it might mean risking further damage to your health (or your race season). So, without any further adieu, let’s get into the topic of our soft tissue aches and pains, and see what we can do about them…

    MUSCLE SORENESS, STRAINS, and TENDONITIS


    Probably the type of injury that has affected every single OCR athlete in history. There is virtually no way anyone has come out of a race completely unscathed after miles of running and obstacle torture. And it makes sense that the degree of that beatdown usually increases over further distances and higher number of obstacles to attempt- all potential sources to pull, bruise, cramp, and in some way irritate your muscles and tendons. If these boo-boos are nearly inevitable anyway, the best approach is really knowing the best ways to handle them the following week as we limp around the office or try to get back to the gym.

    My first move after getting my muddy shoes and socks off at the race is always to throw on a pair of compression socks for recovery, which I’ll keep on for at least an hour and maybe for the whole ride home. Not only does it feel comfortable, but this will help to alleviate a lot of the naturally swelling and stiffness that occurs in my feet, ankles, and calves, even if no specific injury occurred (though I have had some ankle problems before, and cramping in the longer races has it me too sometimes).

    Step two, after I’m back home or at the hotel, is to use a foam roller that I’ll usually bring along with me. It’s like a poor man’s massage, even though it might not feel quite as lovely when you’re bruised or cut up. Either way, a short session of that deep tissue work and some mobility focus will loosen up your legs and back after being stuck in the car for a while. The same goes for for using a lacrosse ball for your foot’s arch, or any other hard to reach sore spots.

    The last part of treatment will test your mettle a little more, but might be the most effective in helping muscle recovery. It’s called contrast therapy, and involves a sequence of varying hot and cold to help get fresh blood to reach those beat up muscles and flush out the waste byproducts of exercise that cause lasting soreness. It can be done simply by alternating tolerable temperature range back and forth in the shower, or if a warm bath and then cold rinse are both available (think that steaming jacuzzi next to your chilly backyard pond or swimming pool), that will do the trick. Not only will it help recover your achy tissues, but I like how the chill can also wake you up and leave you revitalized after. 

    One final piece of muscle recovery advice I can offer, really applies to both after your races but is best for every day practice. Proper nutrition and hydration is logically as much good preparation for competition as it is for followup recovery. Without getting too much into the individual food science or water intake recommendations, I assure you that if you are consistently on your game here, these small muscle complaints should be less likely to visit, and you’ll surely perform better on and off the course.

    - MudMan 

    For more OCR training tips, check out our Free Guide: Warrior Strong - How to Become Resilient to Injury in Obstacle Course Racing

     

     

     


    Get Out of the Gym and Become a Better Obstacle Racer November 16 2015, 1 Comment

    A Mudman Pro Tip from Kevin "Mudman" LaPlatney 

    Some of the most important training for OCR doesn’t necessarily require any fancy equipment or expensive gym membership.  And most of these routines can be done at home or at the local park, with simple supplies that you might already have, or can easily create on the cheap.


    How to become a better Obstacle Racer - Animal Movements

    1. ANIMAL MOVEMENTS (Bear crawl, crab walk, alligator crawl, etc.)

    If other creatures have perfected their movements to be fast and agile on the ground and in low or tight spaces, why shouldn’t we follow suit? 

    For humans, and especially our crazy little muddy subspecies who participate in obstacle races, these full body exercises are great to practice for getting under the barbed wire mud pits, through tight tunnels, or under narrow wall holes.  Move like the animals they are named after.  Gives a new meaning to “beastmode”, right?

    2. PULL-UPS/DIPS/MUSCLE-UPS

    How to get stronger for OCR - Pull ups

    To make sure climbing obstacles such as monkey bars, cargo nets, rope climbs, vertical walls, and hurdles won’t give you trouble, these basic upper body pulling exercises are the biggest part of getting yourself up or over those structures, while also developing super grip strength to hold on when you’re hanging for dear life!  Even just a simple long hang, suspended from any ledge or horizontal pole, will blast your forearms and fingers so much that the obstacles will seem like nothing.

    3. CARDIO (run, swim, bike, etc.)

    Even the shortest of races that are in the 5k range are going to test your endurance when obstacles get thrown into the running mix, so you had better have that engine ready to go.  Running might be the most ideal form of cardio training for OCR, but other methods will actually translate well and even compliment the mileage you’re getting on your feet. And you never know when a race may surprise you with a nice brisk swim mid-course anyway.

    How to get stronger for Mud Runs - Plyometrics

    4. PLYOMETRICS (Squats, lunges, jumping/bounding)

    Nothing develops pure power better than explosive, ballistic movements and lifting.  Even if you don’t have bumper plate weights, wooden boxes, or the typical CrossFit setup, most of these done with just bodyweight are effective for what you’ll need to do in OCR.  Jump ropes are a classic and inexpensive piece of equipment you can carry anywhere, and it’s never hard to find a sturdy bench or sidewalk curb to bounce on and off. 

    5. STRONGMAN “toys” (tire flip, sandbag carry, atlas stone lift, sled drag etc.)

    How to get better at OCR - Move heavy stuff

    This is where you can get creative with your own personal inventory or workout supplies.  Many of the above items can be made from parts at your local home improvement store or even found laying by the wayside.  One means trash can be another man’s treasure, when it comes to training equipment.  I personally have grabbed old used tires from the corner mechanic shop, and picked up hefty logs and rocks to carry while on my trail runs. 

    If you want some brand new stuff of your own, cinder blocks (to carry or attach to a chain and drag) and demolition sandbags are two very inexpensive but very effective workout tools to keep in your car’s trunk.  Plenty of bang for your buck!

    - MudMan 

    For more OCR training tips, check out our Free Guide: Warrior Strong - How to Become Resilient to Injury in Obstacle Course Racing

     

     

     


    How to “Survive” Tough Mudder’s Most Frightening Obstacles October 30 2015, 0 Comments

    A Mudman Pro Tip from Kevin "Mudman" LaPlatney - (Halloween Edition)

    While we all know Tough Mudder is “not a race, but a challenge,” a big part of their slogan comes from the fact that a number of fear-facing tasks await you in their 10-12 mile events. While little of the course is truly physically strenuous, here are some of the phobia-centric obstacles that many Mudders would sooner skip than miserably attempt, with tips on how you can get through them a little easier.

    Shawshanked

    Like the namesake movie starring Tim Robbins, a long and dark inclined sewage pipe opens to drop into a muddy pool of freedom below, testing your fears of the dark and heights.

    TIP: Try night swimming, preferably not in shark infested ocean water though. The drop from Shawshanked tube isn’t very high, so even just a closed eyes jump or backwards fall into a pool might get you prepared for the fall.

    Birth Canal

    I’m not sure many remember their actual birthday entry into the real world, but this is Tough Mudder’s recreation - having to crawl and push through a narrowing path while a water-filled liner squeezes down on you from above.  

    TIP: Don’t worry, even in this “womb”, there is enough air to breathe but you’ll need to lay out flat to move more comfortably. Bear crawling only gets you part way as the space narrows, so work on doing army crawls with weight or a heavy pack/ruck to get used to the pressure on your back. 

     

    Cry Baby

    Like a police academy hazing or just a locker room full of too much Icy-Hot, the crawl through a tear gas filled enclosed tent isn’t an enjoyable stay if you’re stuck there very long.

     

    TIP: Sure, you can douse yourself for weeks in some sports cream or Vick’s VapoRub, but that still may not take the sting out this task on race day. Instead, work on being able to crawl with eyes squinted so as to limit their exposure to the chemicals in this harsh (but apparently safe) gas. I guess you could also pack some ski or swim goggles with you for this obstacle, but that wouldn’t be very Mudderly.  

     

    Electroshock Therapy

    Quite likely Mudder’s most infamous 10 second torture chamber, having to run through a corridor of hanging live electric wires is something you probably have to be off your rocker to actually enjoy. And like a Cialis commercial, only adults healthy enough to engage this should even attempt running through, as it could have some potential health risks. 

     

    TIP: In no way would I suggest “practicing” for the voltage zap of wires tied to car batteries because that’s just stupid. If you’re hoping to complete it but without the bragging rights of mild electrocution, you could take your time and try evading the wires or low crawling to be below them, but that's the best advice I can offer. Otherwise, just throw in the towel and skip this one - never been a fan.

    Arctic Enema

    The drama that surrounds this ice bath obstacle has little merit. Hypothermia is extremely unlikely since you are “in it” for such a short time, unless you drop your car keys and need to go dumpster diving for a while. The two biggest effects are muscle cramping from the temperature shock, or maybe a temporary headache (think ice cream brainfreeze) for a couple minutes after you exit.

     

    TIP: Believe it or not, this is one obstacle that you really can actually train for this with cold showers or icy tub sessions. Doing so is not just a way to survive the obstacle, but a great daily recovery tool after your workout or run too (you do exercise also, right?).

     

     

     


    The Best Way to Wash Your Clothes After a Mud Run October 15 2015, 0 Comments

    A Mudman Pro Tip from Kevin "Mudman" LaPlatney

    It’s been said a good obstacle race should leave every inch of you, and what you’re wearing, completely covered in mud. For most, that look is a sign of total badasseryTM and likely ends up being their best Instagram pic for at least that week. However, spouses and roommates alike may not share in the feeling when you bring home that pile of dirty stinkin’ laundry. So, here’s a quick strategy guide on the best way to wash your clothes after a mud run that will help you avoid sleeping in the doghouse, out in the backyard, where it’s also quite dirty… 

    Spray wash clothes after a mud run with a water hoseSince a lot of races like to place their most epic mud obstacles toward the finish line, odds are the water that made that area all mucky isn’t too far away. My first advice is to seek out where you plan to clean off right after the race is over, while you are still soaked (but after the selfie shots are secured of course). The obvious destination is the shower or hosing-off station, but sometimes a pond or lake is nearby, where you can make your initial attempt to pre-rinse your mud-caked clothes, shoes, and body. You know you’re not getting everything spic-and-span here, but this step might save your washing machine and bathtub from a lot of mess, and even potential damage, later on at home.  

    I always bring a large garbage bag to carry this soaking wet race outfit, and also keepCleaning up after a mud run is the final obstacle it from leaking all over the car on the ride home provided you are now in a clean(er) change of clothes for the drive/flight. If you’re staying a last night in a hotel and don’t have any plans other than a refueling dinner and maybe an adult beverage to celebrate the race, you can always kill an hour or two using their laundry machines and again save your own from getting hit with the residual dirt. But if you are dragging that sopping wet pile of clothes home, it might make sense to give it one last blast with the hose out in the driveway. You’ll be shocked at how much dirty silt is still hiding in your clothes even after that. I usually find that socks, compression sleeves, and even race shorts (with zipper pockets opened) often need a second rinse done inside-out to finally get back to looking like new. A little Febreze after everything’s clean and dry doesn’t hurt either.    

    How to Clean Your Shoes After a Mud Run

    If there’s anything you ought to give the most care to cleaning, it’s your precious OCR running shoes. Take good care of them, and they’ll return the favor at your next race. I know you may be saying, “but they’ll just get muddy again next week”, but there’s also a certain psychological advantage to toeing the start line the following weekend with shoes that look (and smell) fresh. Trust me. While the hose-down may be good enough for most pairs of sneakers, here’s an instructional video for those that want to go the extra mile (no pun intended) for your #1 racing kicks: