Hey, Mudder Nation: Train tough! But also … train smart. Yes, you’ve got to push it hard to get ready for a Mudder, but "rest" is not a four-letter word. Training must include rest days and active rest days among the intense days.
Why? As Nick Rizzo, a competitive powerlifter and training director at RunRepeat.com, explains, “Your body needs time to rest and recover from your training regime.” See, it’s not when you’re literally sludging through mud, scaling walls, and dangling from Funky Monkey-inspired bars that you get strong. It’s after. “When you exercise and lift weights you’re creating tiny micro-tears in your muscles, which repair and grow back stronger,” Rizzo explains. But, for that to happen, you have to press pause on breaking down your muscles.
That’s where active rest days (sometimes called active recovery days) come in. Unlike total rest days—which typically involve couch-sitting, beer and TV—according to certified yoga instructor Alex Tan, founder of Schimiggy Yoga in Seattle, Washington, “Active rest days involve enough exercise to get the blood flowing, but not so much that it taxes your cardiovascular system or muscles.” This low intensity movement increases blood flow enough to carry waste products away from your muscle tissues, and circulate nutrients like oxygen and amino acids to them. But, the movement doesn’t tax your body enough to cause more lactic acid build-up or muscle breakdown. Simply put, active rest days include non-workout workouts.
Scratching your finisher-headband clad head? Here are five low intensity workouts that’ll help you better understand what the heck a good active rest day looks like.
Chaturanga and Shavasana may not be gritty, dirt-deep obstacles like Trench Warfare or Kiss of Mud, but these—and other yoga flow poses—are perfect for active rest days, Tan says. “For Tough Mudder athletes, vinyasa, yin, and hatha yoga styles are solid active recovery day activities.” If your local yoga studio is offering a beginner yoga class, or a class with the word “recovery” in the title, try it out. Or, do these 6 yoga moves right from home.
Come on, mud-lovers, crank down the intensity, learn some breathing techniques, give your flexibility a boost, and make yoga your rest day MVP. Have more Q’s about incorporating yoga into your Tough Mudder training? Check out this guide on what yoga can (and cannot) do for your event-day prep.
Repeat after me: jog. J-O-G. Not run, jog. As in, putting one foot in front of the other, sloowly. According to Tan, jogging is the quintessential active rest day workout. That’s because it’s easy to modulate your intensity and stop when you need breaks, she explains. Yep, this run is so chill you can literally stop and walk if you start to feel out of breath or tired. In fact, she recommends it.
Just as every Mudders’ run pace is different on event day, the same is true for rest days. But while there’s no recommended mile/per hour pace, keep this in mind: you should aim to run for 20 to 40 minutes total, at a pace that would allow you to comfortably hold a conversation the whole time.
“Biking is a wonderful recovery options,” Rizzo says. “Just be sure to keep the intensity low and focus on proper movement and form.” We’re talking a casual ride, here. He suggests keeping the intensity at 60 percent of your max effort. Basically, hard as it may be, you need to stifle your Need For Speed.
“Moving the entire body, increasing your heart rate, increasing the blood flow to your muscles, and breaking that sweat is the main goal, and biking at this pace delivers on that,” he says. Just don’t forget your helmet—even the toughest Mudders need to protect their noggins.
Depending on where you live, a hike may or may not be doable. But, if you live near nature, get after it and add it to your training regimen. “Whether you go on a planned hike, or you’ve just gotten ‘lost’ in the woods with your kids or dog, what matters is that you are just up and active,” Rizzo says. Walking on an unpaved, mud path has the added bonus of strengthening your ankles, and you know, being a Mudders preferred environment anyway.
Hiking not your thing? Get your legs moving by walking around town instead. “Walking is a low-impact, leisurely way to get your blood pumping,” Rizzo says. Pro tip: “It really doesn’t need to be a long walk or at an incline.” (Shocking, right?) He does recommend at least 30 minutes, though.
So, lace up, grab the dog, play your favorite podcast, or just listen to the sounds of nature, and head on out.