Pete McCall by Pete McCall

My legs are hurting, my lungs are burning and I’m covered in grime while trying to scale a dirt hill turned into a mud pile by a rushing torrent of water from a fire hose. It’s the World Famous Camp Pendleton Mud Run and I’m having a blast while participating in one of the most popular trends to hit recreational athletics in a long time (one which I’ll be running again this Sunday).

Traditional running races, such as a 5Ks, 10Ks or 26.2-mile marathons are still popular, but the proliferation of mud runs and obstacle racing events demonstrate a great demand for fitness enthusiasts who are eager for new ways to challenge themselves. And it creates an exciting business opportunity for personal trainers to help clients prepare and train for these demanding events.

What is a mud run?

“Mud run” is a generic term for a popular form of running races that have experienced exponential growth over the past few years. A typical mud run can be from 5K to 10+ miles in length, and besides the obligatory mud pits created by overzealous members of the local fire department, these events may require racers to navigate various obstacles such as tunnels, walls or even the occasional fire pit. There are certain races specifically designed to include a variety of obstacles that racers must navigate while dealing with challenging terrain. Events with names such as Warrior Dash, Spartan Race and Tough Mudder are examples of races that are being held in various locations around the world and have exploded in popularity. Fans of horror films can even sign up for a race that includes having to dodge zombies while running an obstacle course. 

Expanding your offerings

If you are looking for new ways to market your training studio or boot camp program you may want to consider offering a conditioning program to help participants train for an upcoming mud run or obstacle course race in your area. Registration for mud runs includes both individual and group options, making them a perfect opportunity to design a small-group training program for your clients or gym members. 

If you want to use an upcoming event as an opportunity to promote your studio or small-group training program, start by searching events in your area. Make sure that you pick one that is an appropriate skill level for your participants as it’s a good idea to have a goal that will be challenging. Keep in mind though that some mud run-style events feature obstacles that are difficult and could cause extreme injury if done improperly (although events don’t require participants to do the obstacles and offer ways around them, it can be easy for a participant to get caught up in the moment and try something above his or her skill level).

Training for a mud run involves more than just running, as many obstacles require participants to have the strength to lift their own body weight, the dexterity to climb over walls and the flexibility to low-crawl through tunnels or under barbed wire (seriously). Most races will list the majority of the obstacles online, leaving room for a few surprises on race day. Review the race course then design a workout program to prepare participants for the demands of the competition. Most event web sites list training tips for how to prepare for the race, however if you want to brush up on ideas to create a progressively challenging conditioning program then it might be helpful to check out the ACE Sports Conditioning workshop to learn how to design energy-system specific exercise programs.   

The upcoming summer months are the perfect time to run an outdoor small-group training program. Take advantage of the popularity of obstacle course races and use them as a way to enhance the visibility of your fitness business. Identify an event that’s three-to-four months off, and develop a training program to prepare for the race. From personal experience, one reason why these events are so popular is that playing in the mud helps you to re-live the carefree feelings of childhood, no matter how mature you have become.   

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