How to Mentally Prepare for Tough Mudder

By Danielle Kissel | November 12, 2019


So, you’ve talked yourself into running a Tough Mudder, one of the most insane, heart-pounding OCR courses on the planet. Not only are you about to do one of the most badass things you’ve ever done in your life, you’re becoming part of an uplifting, empowering community who are here push you outside your comfort zone and try something that once scared the bejeezus out of you. 

Now, how do you begin to prepare your mind and body for what’s to come? I mean, ice baths (Arctic Enema), heavy lifting (Hero Carry), and even a warped wall (Everest). While, yes, at first the idea of tackling a Tough Mudder seems daunting. But, know this: You’re way more of a badass than you think, and getting your mind wrapped around that fact is a major component to helping you kill it on course. 

Here are my tips to train your brain as hard as you’re training your body. By making sure you’rementally prepared, you’ll have no problem crossing that Mudder finish line and earning your headband.

1. Find your inner motivation.

Mental toughness is often said to come from an inner drive and willpower to push beyond your levels of comfort. Many sports professionals even claim that this is a value that cannot be taught; rather, you are born with an innate feeling of fortitude that drives you to succeed and perform at your best. So, what gets you moving? What inspires you to succeed? The first step is knowing what uniquely motivates you. Whether it’s a personal goal to complete something outside your comfort zone or a weight loss journey towards feeling like your best self, find that personal motivation and use it to drive yourself to the end of the Mudder course.

2. Build a support network.

Looking for a bit of extra motivation to get going for your next workout? Group exercise can be fantastic. Try rounding up some friends to join you on your next jog. The extra encouragement, and knowing you have others who are holding you accountable, can help give you that extra nudge to head out the door on those “not so motivated” days. If you can’t find any friends in the need for speed, check out some of your local running stores. Many hold weekly meet-ups of like-minded running enthusiasts to help motivate and encourage one another. Plus, this support network can help you clear out any negative inner dialogue with outer words of encouragement. That way when the going gets tough on course (and it will) you'll hear their voices propelling you on instead of your own inner demons.

3. Get in the zone.

It’s often said that fitness-related success is 10% physical and 90% mental. As such, it cannot go unsaid that you need to train your mind for the obstacles to come. Many fitness professionals use visualization to help relax their minds when prepping for a big event; they envision achieving the personal success they’ve set for themselves, pre-determining their own journey into the future. Imagine yourself leaping, propelling, and hurdling over the obstacles on course. If you go into your OCR event seeing yourself achieving your goals in your mind’s eye, you are much more likely to make that vision a reality in the actual moment.

4. Be ready for small failures.

Proficiency in any Tough Mudder race doesn’t require you to specialize in any one realm of fitness or be the best at everything. One of the most fun aspects of Tough Mudder is that it challenges an all-around capability of your physical fitness to test your mind and body against various modes of functionality—from cardio to strength, and even a bit of gymnastics. Will you complete every obstacle with ease? Probably not. And that’s okay. Be mentally ready to physically falter, so you can also be ready to move on to the next challenge without getting discouraged when things inevitably go awry on course. Be prepared to shake it off.

5. Be proud of what you’ve accomplished. 

Finally, remember that Tough Mudders are all about having fun. Count up whatever goals you achieve and be proud of them as you make your way through the course. Your achievements could be something as simple as doing a low crawl for the first time or getting head-to-toe muddy to as intense as effortlessly traversing the Funky Monkey or launching over Lumberjacked. Those victories will fuel you, no matter how big or small. Whatever they are, be proud as you cross that finish line and earn your headband to become part of Mudder Nation.

Danielle Kissel is runner, obstacle course racer, and lifter of heavy things—and the chick behind Muddy Warrior Chick. She's 80% driven by her desire to succeed at races and 20% driven by all things unicorn, glitter, and donuts, and both physically and mentally ready for World's Toughest Mudder course this month.