CrossFit and Tough Mudder, A Test of Fitness

“Develop the capacity of a novice 800 meter track athlete, gymnast, and weightlifter and you’ll be fitter than any world class runner, gymnast, or weightlifter.” ~ Greg Glassman, Founder, CrossFit

In preparing for a Tough Mudder, there are many workout programs available to you in order to gain some physical fitness prior to the tortures of the Tough Mudder course.  Some home workouts are advertised heavily such as Beachbody’s P90X and Insanity, or for home gym products such as Iron Gym’s Doorway Pullup Bar, the Perfect Pushup, or fitness magazine’s new monthly set like the Spartacus Workout.  You can even do the official Tough Mudder workout (just don’t believe the “related obstacles”).

I started doing the Spartacus Workout at the end of 2009, and went into P90X early 2010, but I soon grew bored of the repetitiveness of these routines and I couldn’t finish the full schedule.  I signed up for a Tough Mudder (Pennsylvania 4/2011) in November 2010 in an effort to motivate myself to get into shape again.  I couldn’t get myself truly active until January 2011 when I found CrossFit, and now halfway through July, I’m still doing it.  To me, that’s a great testament; the best workout routine is the one you keep.  

CrossFit calls itself the Sport of Fitness.  Their goal is two-fold:
**Provide a consistantly varied workout routine scalable for different fitness levels
**Constantly reevaluate and evolve theory and practice for the best fitness results

The easy part of CrossFit is getting started.  The routine is free by checking their website and reading what the Workout of the Day (WOD) is.  The idea behind this type of workout delivery is that you never know what to expect.  I found when I was doing P90X, knowing that I had Plyo the next day, I felt sick, and maybe I didn’t get as much out of Chest & Back as I could have.  With CrossFit, you have no idea what’s happening tomorrow, so you have no choice but to push your body to its full potential.  I’ve supplemented my routine with extra abdominal workouts, and by not knowing what’s ahead, I’ve ran into the situation where my next WOD is abs.  It’s a good hurt.

The hard part of this routine is the equipment necessary.  Not everyone has a full gym at their disposal; I do, so this program works for me.  A full set of weights and a barbell are necessary, along with kettlebells, some machines like a squat rack and Glute-Hamstring Developer (GHD), jump rope, gymnast rings,  medicine ball, plyometric box, and a pullup bar (sturdier than the doorway one).  After this, everything else is about the moves you do with the standard set of equipment, and this is where CrossFit starts to shine.

Workouts will run the gamut of heavy lifting all the way to long distance running; I’ve seen everything from a set of 1 Repetition, Max Weight (1RM) of deadlifts to a 6 mile run for time.  Their research has shown certain types of weight lifting moves give the body a hormonal boost, and certain durations of workouts force your body into different metabolic states.  By combining these elements, you will be able to get great gains in strength, stamina, and coordination.  We all know if you want to lift the most you can possibly lift, you don’t get better by only running 10 miles a day, and if you’re looking to do a marathon, what good will bench press and hammer curls do for you?

So how does this relate to the Tough Mudder?  I say there is no other test of physical fitness and mental tenacity that I’ve encountered that is as fun as conquering a TM.  I mentioned how TM is such a great equalizer; you run, jump, crawl, climb, carry, swim, balance, and coordinate with others throughout the event, and one method of training isn’t going to cover this gamut.  Is CrossFit perfect?  No, nothing in this world is.  In the words of Greg Glassman, founder of CrossFit, “If you can brag about either a low 4’s mile or a high 4’s bench press you could also be a lot fitter.”  Athletes who develop a tunnel vision approach to their craft are not as fit as someone who is a novice at everything.  Tough Mudder is NOT a half-marathon, and it is NOT a strength drill; it’s both, and you must be proficient in both to succeed.  Plenty of people finish the Tough Mudder, but how many people can say they didn’t skip a single obstacle, held onto every monkey bar (no matter how slippery) and could maintain more than a walk through any of the trails?  Very few (I kick myself for those 5 rungs on the monkey bars I had left every day).

If you’re like me, “good enough” just isn’t good enough.  Why do I train the way I do?  I know what Tough Mudder threw at me, and I am convinced that I will be better in November because of my routine.  While I think CrossFit is the best program to follow, I think that because it works for me.  Everyone’s physical needs, time constraints, and self-motivation levels are different.  Find something that works for you, and if you have the chance, experiment with different routines.  If CrossFit is interesting to you, check out the site, look at some of the articles posted below, and use it to get into the best level of fitness of your life, and push yourself further than you thought you could go at your next Tough Mudder.  Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a workout with Barbera. 3…2…1…GO!

**What is Fitness?
**A Beginner’s Guide to CrossFit
**A CrossFit Startup Guide: Part 1

Written for by Jim “Patch” Paccioretti

One thought on “CrossFit and Tough Mudder, A Test of Fitness”

  1. Nice writeup.

    I’ve always wanted to try CrossFit but the class at my gym is mid day so work gets in the way. I still do bootcamp, run three days a week and lift five days a week. So I’m getting the work in but it is always nice to have someone pushing you or mixing up your workout for you. Especially, on those days where you just don’t feel like pushing yourself.

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