Katrina Bowden on the 13 Training Tips That'll Help You Cross Any Finish Line

By Ron Sklar | September 2, 2016


On 30 Rock, actress Katrina Bowden played Cerie, the vapid, hardly working office intern who inadvertently made Liz Lemon (Tina Fey) feel old, shapeless and hopeless. In real life, that intern is not how Katrina does. For one, her head is not empty. It’s filled with useful knowledge that she likes to share, including strategies on fitness, nutrition, and how to lead a healthy, but sane, lifestyle. She’s also not afraid to get dirty – even muddy. Training for a Tough Mudder takes time and dedication. Something she knows a thing or two about considering  she’s tested her limits and her endurance while training for two New York marathons


Her fitness/lifestyle blog, FitKat,  is a place she builds on her impressive knowledge of fitness tips and tricks and explores every aspect of what Mudders obsess on - that 10-12 mile run. So consider her a soul sister – and a sole sister – because she’s all about logging miles.

We asked her to share some insights on prepping for a race as intense as ours.  The takeaway; it’s not all dull, serious-minded drudgery all the time; the more you understand your training, the more you’ll be able to lighten up without slacking off.

Here, Katrina drills down on what to keep in mind in the months/weeks/days/minutes/seconds leading up to your Tough Mudder:

Give yourself a pep talk.

Little personal pep talks help me. You’ll need to train and get your body ready for what it’s about to do, but after that, it’s all about your mental stamina. During long runs, I’ll talk to myself and remind myself what I am capable of doing: “I’ve run this far before; I can do it again.” Or: “This is the farthest I have ever run, and that is amazing.” Or: “Only five miles left. Five miles are so easy. You can do that.”

Don’t try to be amazing right away.

Gradual training runs get your body used to long distances, speed and hill work – because all terrain is different and you’ll need to be able to tackle a hill without falling apart. So take it slow – work up to it. Work your way up the hill.

What’s the bigger focus: carbs or protein?

Carbs are surely important, but protein is super-important, to help rebuild your muscles and recover faster. Typical for me: an English muffin for breakfast, before long runs. Energy gummies and gels during my long runs. Afterward: a protein shake and a healthy lunch. During training, fuel your body well and often.

Train with the experts – research on your own.

Train with a group or some other people. Don’t train alone. Share the training journey.

I trained with a charity organization- the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. They put together our training program, which I followed to a T.

I also did my own research – you’ll be surprised at what you learn. The biggest new thing I’ve learned is that it's important to give your body enough rest. Running every single day wasn't my training style. I did about 3-4 runs a week (one being a long run and the others were short and speed-focused). I mixed in Pilates and High Intensity Training classes to make sure I was building my muscles and not losing any strength.

Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. Then hydrate some more.

I never ran without taking water breaks. Sometimes I would carry a hand-held bottle with me, but if I was running in areas I knew had plenty of water fountains, I would skip the bottle and just stop frequently to drink. You should never feel "thirsty." If you do, you should be taking sips of water often so you never get dehydrated. Once you feel thirsty, you know you've waited too long to drink water.  You also need to be taking energy gels and chews – and you’ll need water with that too.

Don’t stress the sleep.

It’s always hard to get enough sleep, even when running long distances make you tired. More than likely, you’ll have a hard time falling asleep the night before your Mudder event. Almost everyone experiences this – so you just need to accept the fact and get as much sleep as you can on the days leading up to the big day. If you get plenty of sleep two or three days before the event, you should be fine.

Huge priority: foam rolling in the deep.

My favorite way to stretch and mobilize: foam rolling. After your training run, simple stretches work best. Later on, watching TV or chilling, foam roll all over. Stretching is important – but recovery is even more important. Stretching and foam rolling daily is something most people don't like doing because it's boring, but it's so necessary to keep you free of injury. You can't cross the finish line if you never make it to the starting line. 

Training is a personal journey

Marathon prep doesn’t vary so much between men and women, but it does vary from person to person. If anything, prep is an equalizer. Everyone has to put in the same amount of work. Whether you’re male or female, prep depends a lot on your mental drive and your desire to do well.

What to wear when training

I like wearing spandex shorts or capris with plenty of pockets to hold my race nutrition and salt packets. I also swear by my Flipbelt: I can put my phone in it, as well as ear buds for music, keys, credit cards/ID, Chapstick, gels - whatever. It lays flat against the waistband of my shorts or pants and doesn't move around when I run. Check out Merrell’s latest gear to get you ready for the course.

Give yourself time to be bad

If you’re doing a 16-mile training run, a donut isn't going to really make a dent in your progress. I wouldn't recommend indulging all the time, but I would often end a long run with a meal or snack I wouldn't normally go for. I would get a huge NYC bagel with lox or have a big omelet with fries -- I'm more of a savory, salt-craving girl -- once every week or two. And I would always take at least one rest day a week. 

Outsmart the remorse

During training, there will be moments where I thought, “why am I doing this to myself?” Thoughts like those went away when I reminded myself that I was raising money for a good cause. The bragging rights are worth every single pain experience along the way.  Also, when you finally get to the actual event, the crowds near the finish line will really push you forward, no matter how much pain you may be feeling.

Teamwork gives you all the feels

During the Tough Mudder event, you’ll be amazed at how many fellow athletes may help you if you need it, setting their own goals aside. During my second marathon, I didn’t know I had broken a bone in my leg – even though I was in great pain. Another runner – a total stranger – put her arm around me and walked me to the finish line. It was very emotional.

Side note: as a result of that broken bone, I was on crutches for three months. I’m all healed now, and working on making sure that never happens again. Can’t keep me away.

Are you having fun yet?

Put in the work, but don’t forget to have fun –which is not a problem at Tough Mudder. People who win marathons may be on a whole other level than you – and that’s fine. For you, just finishing the course may be an amazing feat in itself.  Don’t obsess on times and paces – it can often take the fun out of the amazing thing you are doing.

Read more about Katrina and her fitness lifestyle advice in her FitKat blog and check out the Tough Mudder 2016 event lineup to put these 13 tips to the test.