Friday, January 18, 2013

Tough Mudder Training Schedule

I have only one week left on my Asylum: Volume 2 workout program. Everything's been going great, and I've been having lots of fun. But with this program ending, I've turned my attention to the next challenge: preparing for the Tough Mudder I've signed up for on Saturday, May 11.

As my teammate, Iryna said, "That Tough Mudder is no joke." I totally agree -- 10 to 12 miles of obstacles and hilly trail running will be the challenge of a lifetime. I recently read a very detailed and excellent race review and walk-through on Muddy J's blog. Reading this led me to want to start planning in earnest for my own race.

After review materials online, I decided that I wanted to create my own workout schedule based on a few factors:

1. Running -- A lot. The course is 10 to 12 miles and you have to get around by running. The running will be off-road, so I'll want to incorporate trail running and hills.
2. Strength -- I'm going to have to be able to pull myself over walls, through tunnels, and who knows what else. I need to make sure I have the ability to do this. Focusing on upper body strength, a weakness for me, is going to be key.
3. Plyo power and agility -- I'll need to be able to jump to get up those walls and have the agility to move through mud and keep my balance during the off-road running.
4. Endurance -- The course will take us at least three hours, maybe four, I'm guessing. Long runs are going to be necessary to help build a base of endurance to make sure I can make it through the race.

When thinking about what I'm going to have to do during the race, it seems to make sense to:

1. Trail run!
2. Do hill repeats.
3. Run long.
4. Strength train using the resistance of my own body (since the race won't have me lifting weights).
5. Practice pull ups.
6. Keep my body accustomed to rapid changes in activity. I'm going to be moving through many different obstacles and having to stop and start a lot.

I knew right away how I wanted to structure my running. Since the race was almost a half marathon, I thought using the Hal Higdon half marathon training schedule with modifications would work well. I'd run Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday with Saturday as my long run. For Monday, I can focus on a run that is challenging and incorporates trails and hills. Wednesdays, I will likely run at work during lunch, so those will be more of an easy run to keep up my base.

In thinking about the training for strength and agility, I began to think the right move would be to mash-up some of the at home workout DVD programs I have, namely Insanity, Asylum: Volume 1, and Asylum: Volume 2.  The company that puts out these programs has a hybrid calendar for all three programs. Originally, I thought I might use this, having the hybrid calendar alternate every other day or so with the running calendar, but I decided that this wasn't going to work for me. The hybrid calendar has you do a lot of the workouts that use weights, and I wanted to do most of my strength training with my body weight or with plyometrics.

I also saw that the hybrid calendar clustered certain workouts from certain programs together (so for the first month you did mostly Insanity + Asylum 1 and in the second month you did more Asylum 1 + Asylum 2). I was more interested in having all three programs be spread evenly throughout my calendar because they all offer something slightly different. I find Insanity to be the most cardio based of the three and models HIIT training. It's the only one of the programs to not use any weights at all. Asylum 1 seems the most agility focused. Asylum 2 is most focused on work with strength and weights.

With all of this in mind, I put together a workout calendar that alternates running days with strength/cross-training days using the Insanity and Asylum programs. I'm planning to give myself 12 weeks to train and will start intensive training after a allowing myself a few weeks of just moderate exercise to recover after I complete Asylum: Volume 2.

When looking at the calendar, the runs scheduled will follow this format:
Monday: Trail run with hills
Wednesday: Easier run, probably on a treadmill
Saturday: Long run, as much off-road and on trails as possible

I'm also lucky in that I have a playground with monkey bars literally in my backyard. (There is a small playground about ten feet away from the back patio of my condo. It's on an angle so it can't be seen from the house, but it's super close. While this is not lucky most days, it will be lucky for Tough Mudder training.) I don't have a pull-up bar in my house, so I'm planning to go and do pull-ups and chin-ups on the monkey bars a few days a week staring in mid-March when the weather gets a bit better. I'll also practice navigating across the monkey bars, as I know there is an obstacle that requires this.

So, yes, I am totally nervous. Time will tell if I've put together a good workout program, but I'm feeling pretty good about it now. The only way I can think to feel less scared is to be prepared, so I'm going to do the best I can to get ready for May!

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