Tough Mudder's Chris James
IT'S A FEAT nobody in Europe ha completed before but 48-year-old Chris James has the honour to say he has completed 50 Tough Mudder competitions. What is Tough Mudder, we hear you say? Known as 'Probably the toughest event on the Planet', the challenge has larger than life obstacles including elements such as the 'Arctic Enema 2.0' (an icy water plunge), and 'Electroshock Therapy' (a muddy sprint through dangling electric wires). This year also sees the introduction of the 'Block-Ness Monster' where Mudders will have to push, pull and roll their way through 60 feet of slick, rotating barriers in a water pit. And it is coming to Dubai for the first time this December.
Here we talk to Chris to get some advice on how to succeed.
What is it about du Tough Mudder as a competition that appeals over other similar events?
The main appeal of Tough Mudder over other events is that it is not competitive in the traditional sense; the only person you are really competing with at du Tough Mudder is yourself. There is no 'punishment' or similar treatment if you fail an obstacle or just can't do it for whatever reason, in fact the community is usually there to encourage you en-masse. The event tests not only physical fitness but also mental grit and camaraderie. It is a personal challenge rather than a race, in which participants must help each other overcome obstacles and fight their fears.
How many more Tough Mudders do you think you will do? Do you feel there's an age limit?
I have no idea how many I will do, and I'd happily say at this stage 'as many as possible'. Tough Mudder keeps me motivated all year and being at the events is such a positive part of my life I can see no reason I'll be stopping soon. Each different event location brings different challenges due to changes in course and conditions so I don't get bored. I would like to try some in heat and even at night to see what difference that makes.
One thing I really feel strongly about is people thinking age and fitness are inter-related and that as you get older performance will be compromised so you may as well accept it and get lazy. In my experience, and with some of the company I keep (especially on course) that just isn't true. So I don't believe in any age barriers.
What would you say is the number one thing people must remember if they wish to compete?
The number one thing to remember at du Tough Mudder is to turn around when you complete an obstacle and see if there is anyone behind you that needs some help or encouragement.
What do you think is the future of the event? Have they got tougher over the time you have been doing them?
I think the event has definitely evolved and aspects of it have probably become tougher, or at least more of a challenge but I have in response also become better (fitter, stronger and more experienced) so it's hard to say really. I hope they do get a little tougher but that's because I have done so many and like a challenge.
This past weekend I took two new guys out on course, one had trained a bit and one that hadn't, they both had a great time and found it hard but managed to complete the course with some help. One is feeling a little better next day than the other but they both want to do it again... Maybe people need to try for themselves and see what they think?
Diet recommendations to get fighting fit
As a general guideline I eat a 'clean diet' of meat, vegetables and some fruits 6 days a week and eat what I want at the weekend. Personally I've found my performance was enhanced by not eating 'white carbs' such as rice and wheat (breads and pasta) or sugary and processed foods. I keep it simple using 'one ingredient' foods like bananas and dates for an energy boost and eggs, vegetables and meat for meals. I drink lots of water and one or two cups of black coffee or tea in the morning.
I'll try to keep my carbs low(er) during the week but usually eat rolled oats at the weekend with either bananas, dried fruits or as a pancake before a run. I don't believe it is good to cut everything you enjoy out of life, just reduce the processed foods (comes in any form of packet) and eating a good healthy and balanced diet allows you room to enjoy treats and 'cheats'.
Chris' training tips
1) Workout outside if you can. Air conditioned gyms are great but many people (in gyms) concentrate on machine workouts and technology. I may be 'old school' but experience tells me that the people that get outside and train perform better on the day. That doesn't mean gyms are not good, just that you need to combine this kind of training with being outside and dealing with the elements that will be present on event day.
2) Running is a great way to get fit but the biggest mistake I see people making when training for a du Tough Mudder is concentrating (too much) on the running. It's good to run and it's a great way to get fit quickly but at du Tough Mudder you won't be running a straight long-distance, you will be running between obstacles so it's a kind of 'stop-go' training which breaks up your running rhythm. Therefore it is good to use some 'interval' style training to condition yourself to the changes in pace. Also, as above, try to get outside to run on uneven terrain to get your muscles and joints used to changing surfaces and angles.
3) Work that upper body at least as much as your legs. Many obstacles require a level of upper body strength. You need to train using several combinations of pulling and pushing movements but you really don't need anything fancy or too specific, in fact pull-ups, push-ups and static hangs from a bar are not only simple but are an ideal ways to train. You could also add some crawling, sprint training and burpees too if you have time.
Tough Mudder is on December 9-10 at the Hamdan Sports Complex. Register at www.toughmudder.ae