Are You Ready for the Arctic Enema?

The STACK team recently took on the Tough Mudder. If you're planning on running the race any time soon, read our guide to beating its toughest obstacles.

I knew the Tough Mudder would test both my physical and mental endurance. That's why I wanted to try this self-proclaimed "toughest event on the planet."

After running through more than 10 miles of mud, swimming through ice-cold water, climbing over walls and under barbed wire, and narrowly escaping 10,000 volts of electricity, I came out on the other side muddy and happy to be wearing the orange headband I earned for finishing. I also came away with four pieces of advice for anyone who might want to try one of these races.

Pick the Right Teammates 

Teaming up for the Tough Mudder

The author (2nd from left) with teammates (from right) Kesha Christoph, Josh Staph and Becky Jensen

You are not running this race alone. You are running it as part of a team. With that in mind, a team must share a common goal, strive to achieve a common objective and work together as a unit to succeed in their common mission.

As a team, define your Tough Mudder goals before race day—whether you will walk through the course and skip challenging obstacles, or sprint through the course and charge through each obstacle with militant determination.

The night before the race, one of my teammates, STACK Superhero Josh Staph, reassured me, saying, "The hay is in the barn. All that's left to do is show up and shine." What I learned during the race was that you don't shine as a single person. You shine as a unit.

This race tests both your physical and mental grit. Teammates are your only weapons to fight back against the course. Choose them wisely.

Josh carrying Niki

Josh carrying Niki.

Choose the Right Gear 

Figuring out how to dress for a Tough Mudder isn't easy—but it is possible. You must plan your outfit based on the fact that you will, with certainty, be wet, muddy or some combination of the two for the entire 10- to 12-mile race.

Compression tights and quick-drying tanks are the keys to Tough Mudder comfort.

I recommend the adidas Powerluxe Three-Quarter Tights. Three qualities make them a perfect Tough Mudder option. One, they are durable—they protected my legs against rocks, sticks and splinters without ripping or tearing. Two, they are unrestrictive, allowing me the freedom to comfortably crawl through thick pasty mud trenches and inclined plastic tubes, swim through ice-cold water, and run through 10 miles of mud. Third, the breathable mesh inserts behind the knees allowed me to stay cool as the day warmed up. (Bonus feature: the three-quarter length restricted all the gnarly cuts and gashes to the bottom half of my shins—definite score!)

On top, I wore the adidas adizero Tank. This was another great choice. The tank dried quickly, was lightweight, and its racer-back allowed me to reach freely overhead—a prerequisite to successfully completing all obstacles. The adidas techfit tank, worn by a teammate, is also a great option for the Tough Mudder. She said, "I would definitely recommend this tank top to any girl running the Tough Mudder. I found that the tank's style allowed for less mud adherence, keeping me light on my feet." She added, "the racer-back feature allowed for full range of motion when I was jumping and reaching during obstacles."

The race is challenging enough on its own; don't make it harder by making poor gear choices.

Know How to Beat These Six Obstacles 

There are 25 obstacles along the Tough Mudder course, coming roughly every half mile or so. Of those, the following six were the worst.

Hangin' Tough

Objective: Swing over ice-cold water via hanging rings.

How-To: Maintain momentum while swinging by keeping your legs tucked and your feet above water. Keep your eyes focused on the next ring—your body and hands will follow where your gaze is fixed. If you begin to slow, secure each hand to different rings and generate momentum with a rocking motion. Avoid gripping the same ring with both hands simultaneously; this will kill your leverage.

Just The Tip

Objective: Use grip strength to shimmy laterally across a wooden plank over water.

How-To: This obstacle is all about preparation: strong grip, strong fingers and strong arms. Train for it by climbing up a goal post and shimmying across the post laterally. This comes down to whether or not you did your homework. Ice-cold water is waiting for you if you didn't.

The Arctic Enema

Arctic Enema

Objective: Swim across a dumpster of ice-cold water, ducking a wooden barrier at the midpoint.

How-To: This obstacle will literally take your breath away. Be prepared to move fast—your body will start to shut down the instant you hit the 33-degree water.

Only the mentally tough attempt this obstacle. Jump forward as far as possible, minimizing the time you spend in the water. After you duck beneath the middle barrier, try to push off it to generate forward momentum. Use the walls of the dumpster to pull yourself to safety. 


Objective: Sprint up a greased quarter-pipe, enlisting the help of your fellow mudders.

How-To: If at all possible, find a dry track on the pipe. Sprint forward toward the pipe, keeping your eyes focused straight ahead. Take as many steps on the pipe as possible—think roadrunner. Do not reach up or try to jump toward your fellow mudders. Run as fast and as long as possible, only reaching out at the very last moment. Your fellow mudders will then grip your wrists and pull you to the top of Everest. All that's left to do is climb down the treacherous backside of the obstacle. 

Island Hopping

Objective: Jump across a string of unstable, floating islands.

How-To: Use a running motion, as opposed to a hopping motion. Your first foot should step on the near part of the island, tilting the island toward you. Off-set the tilt by timing your second foot to step on the far side of the island. From there, jump forward to the next island. Timing and balance are your keys to successfully completing this obstacle.

Electroshock Therapy

Objective: Run through a messy system of live wires—some carrying up to 10,000 volts.

How-To: Say a prayer and run like the wind!

Finally, Check Your Vanity at the Door 

Vanity plays a large role in the human psyche. By nature, people's actions are driven by their inherent desire to be perceived in a favorable light. Simply put: People want to look good at whatever they're doing.

That's just not possible at the Tough Mudder.

At some point during the race, you will look bad, or awkward, or ugly, or uncomfortable. Know this.  Be at peace with it. The Tough Mudder is about being tough, getting muddy and pushing your body to the limit. But above all else, it's about having fun.

Swallow your pride and get dirty.

Dirty Feet

Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock

Topics: WATER