Tough Mudder Taught Me The Power Of Teamwork: My Training Tips & Interview With Will Dean

Pamela Price, Tough Mudder, jordan bielsky, matt kniaz, jennifer campbell
"I hate running," is a line I often hear from friends. But as a cross-country runner for most of my life, it's hard to relate. After a long day at the office, I enjoy hitting the pavement on the open road.  With each mile clocked, I push myself harder. It's a challenge, not only for my body, but also for my mind. I crave a physical challenge and, as many LATF readers know, I try just about every fitness trend in the book. So, when a friend said, "Let's do Tough Mudder," I was all in.
Crawling through mud under barbwire, diving into arctic cold ice water, electroshock jumps over stacks of hay: Where do I sign up?
Although you can run Tough Mudder individually, it is highly recommended that you have a team of four. Choose between the HALF (5 miles) or FULL (10-12 miles) mud run. We registered for the FULL run + 20 obstacles. I recruited my most athletic friends for LATF's 'Savage Squad' team: Jordan Bielsky ('The Yogi'), Jennifer Campbell ('The Army Vet Personal Trainer) and Matt Kniaz ('The Hockey Player).
I was pumped, ready to train hardcore from July until the November 4th race. I had my team, my healthy meal plans, my workout regimens and was determined to finish in record time. But, there was one problem. I was approaching Tough Mudder all wrong.
After reading Tough Mudder CEO Will Dean's book, "It Takes A Tribe," my entire outlook on the race changed. It's not about racing or competition, it's not about time or if you finish first or last, it's about teamwork. Thanks to people like Will Dean, obstacle course racing, a.k.a. #OCR is a fast-growing movement around the world. It comes down to community and motivating yourself and your teammates. You tackle all 20 obstacles together. Therefore, it helps to train together.
In addition to training solo, we each hosted a workout session. It was important that we learned how to communicate under physical pressure and keep a similar pace. From gear to training, I've got the 411 on how to prep for your first Tough Mudder…

Training Tips & Obstacle Course Advice

Shoe Gear: Your shoes are just as important as a teammate. When it comes to shoes, make sure you have enough workouts and runs in the shoes you'll be racing in. Do not run in a new pair that is not broken in or you'll be sorry! Merrell's official 'All Out Of Crush' Tough Mudder sneakers are great with 360-degree mud-shedding traction. For the hardcore runners, I recommend Salomon's Speedcross 4 GTX for both men and women. With Salomon's: run on terrain and not pavement. (Check out Merrell and Salomon Black Friday Deals!)

What To Wear: If it's not freezing outside, ladies you will benefit from wearing as little as possible! Try running hot-shorts with breathable mesh and stretch fabric for ventilation and a sports bra. For men, Under Armour works. Check out Tough Mudder's site for clothing. You will be diving in water, mud and then running it off, so the lighter, the better.

Pamela Price, Tough Mudder, jordan bielsky, jennifer campbell

Workout Prep: It all comes down to long distance running and arm workouts. I knew that my arms were my weakest link. Monkey Bars and pull-ups will prepare you for obstacles such as THE FUNKY MONKEY and KONG. In between each obstacle, there is a fair amount of running for the Full course. Try planning several 2-3 mile runs per week. About one to two months out, build up the distance to 5-10 miles.

Eat Healthy: During training I eliminated all breads, pasta and rice; which wasn't the best idea. On a high protein diet, I wasn't getting all of the necessary food groups. Grains give you energy. I recommend adopting healthy eating habits with fruit (apples, raspberries, blackberries), protein (turkey, ground turkey, salmon), grains (brown rice, quinoa), vegetables (spinach, broccoli, salads) and water, lots of water! For nutritional tips, visit Jennifer's blog (she's a nutritionist too!):

The Obstacles: When it comes to the actual obstacles, a former Mudder gave me some great advice. He said, "Don't hesitate. Attack all of it with everything you've got when you get to it." Basically, put your GAME FACE on. For Everest, run full speed and lean back as you go up the wall. Don't jump too early and remember, fellow Mudders are there to grab your hand when you reach for them. Arctic Enema was probably one of the hardest obstacles for me. Once you hit that ice bath, you need to keep moving, swim under the tire and lift yourself up and out. Keep moving, don't stop! Savage Squad's favorite obstacles: Kiss The Mud, Blockness Monster and Snot Rocket!

Click PLAY to watch highlights from our Tough Mudder experience!

Just before my first Tough Mudder: Mud Run, Will Dean answered a few questions for LATF with plenty of advice for future Mudders:

In 'It Takes A Tribe,' we learn so much about your life and how TM came to be. Did you ever think that your movement would grow to be this big and affect so many people positively?  

When you start something, you always hope that it takes off and gains an acceptance or following – otherwise, what would be the point in starting it? But to see what Tough Mudder has turned into in less than a decade is nothing short of awe-inspiring. People genuinely think of this as a movement and a cultural identity, which gives us a great sense of pride. It also is constantly spurring us on to be bigger, better, and more innovative as more and more people get involved.

Before reading your book, I was approaching TM as a competition; a physical challenge to win a race. Of course, now my outlook has changed. If you had one line of advice or even a motto that would jumpstart every TM participant's mental and physical journey for training and prepping with the right intention, what would it be?

At Tough Mudder, our mission is to grow Mudder Nation into a global tribe that embodies the principles of courage, teamwork, personal accomplishment, and fun, So, my advice that would jumpstart the journey for training with the right intention, it would be: Have fun! Whether you're training for a Tough Mudder Full or a Tough Mudder Half, you need a workout routine that prepares you mentally and physically for the challenge which lies ahead. Tough Mudder also offers free workout guides on their website that can help fellow Mudder's with a training plan which will help them prepare for the big day.

Pamela Price, Tough Mudder, jordan bielsky, matt kniaz, jennifer campbell

When someone is building their team and thinking about the people they want to do TM with, what advice can you give?

Since Tough Mudder is all about teamwork, camaraderie and overcoming personal obstacles while taking on challenges, I would suggest forming a team of people who are willing to help motivate and cheer each other on. Whether that is a friend, family member, or a coworker, you want folks that will lend a hand to a fellow Mudder who might need it. Also, the best part about participating in a Tough Mudder is that even if you come solo, other Mudder's will become your team — helping you and cheering you on, so you'll be walking away with the accomplishment of finishing a Tough Mudder, and new friendships

In a world where our social media personalities tend to hinder our communication and ability to have personal connection day-to-day, what advice do you give yourself and others to remain present? 

Obviously in this day and age, having a presence on social media is important. It's the best, most effective way of reaching people who are interested in Tough Mudder, and the things that we are doing. However, I think it can't be the only way you communicate to others. People have to know who you are, what you stand for, and that you're authentic. I try to make sure I am, and the company is doing that to the people who follow us.

Pamela Price, Tough Mudder

Personally, what are your favorite workouts?

I do a good amount of travel for business, so I've started going to studio classes in cities that I'm visiting. I try to squeeze in a good, solid workout even if I'm pressed for time, which is why classes are typically what I gravitate towards. Usually, it's a great environment because the instructor keeps you motivated and you have others with you in the class.

What kind of diet do you maintain? What is your favorite cheat food?

My goal is to maintain a simple, high-protein and low-carb diet, but every now and then, you have to cheat, and I always gravitate to a giant hamburger. Usually I'll swap out French fries for sweet potato fries when I cheat, so I don't stray too far from my normal diet. I think the biggest thing I try to follow is to avoid huge portions by eating tiny meals throughout the day.

Pamela Price, Tough Mudder, matt kniaz

At the end of a TM course, what's the first thing you want to do?

Grab your celebratory beer, of course! That's the best part of finishing a Tough Mudder event, gathering together with your teammates – or ones you've made along the way – and congratulating each other on making it to the end. It's no small feat, so give yourself some credit for doing what a lot of others can't or won't. After all that? Hydration and a piece of fruit or energy bar is a good way to help your body refuel.

What is in store for Tough Mudder's future? Do you wish to expand and branch with other concepts of community and strength building?

We're always looking to grow and improve what we have built from a strategic perspective. If we're growing, we want to make sure we're doing it in a smart, and reasoned manner – not just growing for the sake of growing. One thing I believe that Tough Mudder has always stood for and conveyed is that we're authentic. I'd never want to lose that just because someone said we should expand.

Pamela Price, Tough Mudder, jordan bielsky, matt kniaz, jennifer campbell

Join the Tribe and start your Tough Mudder challenge today! To find an #OCR near you visit:

Pamela Price, Tough Mudder, jordan bielsky, matt kniaz, jennifer campbell

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