Mud Runs and Obstacle Races: Capitalizing on Rising Recreational Fitness Trends

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In recent years, the fitness industry has seen a surge in popularity of mud-runs and obstacle course races. Exercise enthusiasts are drawn in by the unique experiences, sense of accomplishment and camaraderie with fellow competitors at these events. With the rise of big name competitions such as The Warrior Dash, Spartan Race and Tough Mudder (just to name a few), clubs and gyms need to assume many of their clients will want to compete. According to, Tough Mudder alone has had over 1.5 million participants since it began in 2010 and it is estimated that roughly 15,000 people participate in each event. Fitness businesses can capitalize on this increasing popularity by offering programs specifically catered to these challenges. Although some participants spend weeks or months training, all could benefit immensely from personal trainers to properly prepare them.
An inexperienced competitor may assume establishing a running routine will be enough to prepare. Clients should not be training like runners; they should be training like athletes. According to Casey Stutzman, director of education at Bay Athletic Club, while personal trainers should gear up clients with a base of cardiorespiratory fitness, clients will also need, “…a combination of body awareness, muscular strength and muscular endurance developed through body weight training”. Obstacle courses often require climbing, throwing, lifting, jumping, pulling, crawling, and running in short bursts, therefore, training protocols will have to be unique and not necessarily follow a usual gym regime. For example, a cornerstone during Tough Mudder is a 20-foot wall that teammates need to scale and climb over. To successfully prepare participants for such a challenge, personal training programs should include HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) oriented circuits, and moves such as chin-ups, pull-ups and corncob pull-ups to improve grip-strength and muscular endurance.
Fitness businesses should also consider incorporating climbing walls, ramps, hurdles, ropes and other equipment into their facilities to further prepare clients for these events. Furthermore, gyms can benefit from organized facility registrations. For example, encourage clients to sign up in groups to train for events and offer competitions to pay for their registration fees. As the adventure/recreational industry and fitness industry continue to collide, gyms would do well to include programs and equipment that cater specifically to participants gearing up to compete in these national events.