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A Beginner’s Guide to Your First Tough Mudder (and how to do it for FREE!)

Nervous about your first Tough Mudder Race? Here's everything you need to know -- SUPER helpful!!

Thinking of doing a Tough Mudder? Here are tips and tricks I’ve learned from doing three different Tough Mudders in the last few years…

1. Embrace the Mud

My very first Tough Mudder was scary. I wondered if I would make it to the finish line. Could I really do a 10-mile, 23-obstacle mud run?

I worried that it would be too hard. I was scared I should have trained for it (I signed up on a whim a few weeks before). And I was worried that I would hate the mud.

You see, I hate mud. I hate the un-showered feeling. In fact, I have to shower and shave my legs every day to feel human and sane.

So I wondered if I had lost my mind to be signing up for something where the whole entire event was about walking and crawling and “swimming” in mud.

But I completely surprised myself by not really being bothered by it at all. In fact, after the first obstacle on that 10-mile obstacle run — one where you ended up covered in mud (see below), I just went with — and it was a blast!

Yes, I definitely was happy to take a shower when I got home and yes, it took multiple showers before I was finally mud-free, but I didn’t mind the mud at all during the event. And during my next two Tough Mudders, I actually welcomed it. Bring on the mud!

Note: You will get very, very muddy. It’s inevitable. Be prepared for mud to be in every orifice of your body — and for it to take a few showers and multiple hair washings to get it all scrubbed off!

2. Ask for Help

The Tough Mudder was specifically designed to be a team event. I can’t imagine doing it on my own or by myself. In fact, some of the obstacles cannot be completed on your own; the only way to get through them (or climb up or over them!) is to have help!

Willingly accept help. Don’t try to go it alone or be a macho. Accept that outstretched hand or the person offering to give you a boost so you can climb the high wall. That’s part of the experience — and I think it’s one of the best parts.

Tip: If you’re planning to do a Tough Mudder, find at least another friend to do it with you. It makes for such an amazing memory to share together AND you’ll never have to worry about being left to try to tackle an obstacle on your own. We just recently finished doing a Tough Mudder with two other couples we are close friends with. It was such a fun adventure — and it deepened our relationship to do it together!

3. Wear the Right Clothes & Gear

One of the best ways to improve your experience at the Tough Mudder is to wear the right clothes and gear. It could mean the difference of you being miserable or actually loving it!

Here are some things I would suggest:

Wear fitted spandex clothing. Don’t wear anything that is bulky and could easily get caught in barbed wire (which there will be quite a lot of that you’ll need to crawl under. Ladies, I recommend wearing spandex capris to protect your legs better as you are crawling under and over things.

Wear fingerless gloves. You are going to be using your hands a lot to grip things and gloves will make that easier, plus they will prevent your hands from getting scratched and scraped. I always use fingerless weight-lifting type gloves.

Bring sunglasses. If it’s sunny, you will be glad that you did. You can set them on the side of any obstacle that involves potentially dropping into water.

Wear shoes that are fairly tight on you. Your shoes will get soaked and you will be walking through waist deep mud and water. If you wear shoes that are loose, you’ll have a hard time keeping them on.

Wear sunscreen. Even if you don’t think it’s going to be sunny, you’re going to be outside for at least 4 hours at this even and the last you want to do is come home muddy and sunburned!

Wear a hair band. If you have longer or thick hair, a hair band can be a lifesaver so that you don’t have muddy, wet hair in your face. At the end of the race, you get a finisher’s head band and these work well for your next Tough Mudder!

Use shoe wraps. You will likely get a lot of little pebbles and rocks in your shoes without shoe wraps/gaitors. We got ours on Amazon (see above photo) and love them!

Don’t bring anything else. You are going to be traipsing through all sorts of mud and water and crazy obstacles… leave your phone or valuables or anything else you don’t absolutely need behind (they offer a bag check, but it costs $10, if I’m remembering correctly). They offer various water and snack stops along the way so you don’t need to bring any food or drink with you.

Tip: Bring a big plastic trash sack, a change of clothes, a change of shoes, and towels for when it’s over with. They have showers where you can shower off, but you’ll want to throw all of your clothes into a trash sack and it’s really nice to have towels dry off at the end!

4. Have a Blast!

Seriously! The more you are ALL IN for the event, the more fun it will be! Do your best. Don’t beat yourself up if you can’t complete an obstacle (you can skip any obstacle you don’t feel comfortable doing) and go out and have fun!

You will challenge yourself. You will likely stretch yourself. And you will probably realize that you are a lot stronger than you thought.

Also, you just might fall in love with Tough Mudders and surprise yourself — just like I did!

How to Do a Tough Mudder for FREE (or at a discount!)

While the price of a Tough Mudder is quite expensive (you’ll pay $99+ for a ticket + $20 for parking at the event), there are a few ways to cut down on the costs — and even get in for FREE!

  1. Volunteer — If you volunteer at the event for half a day, you’ll get 80% off the ticket price. If you volunteer for a full day, you’ll get in completely free. You may still need to pay for parking on the day you participate in the event.
  2. Find a Deal on Groupon — We found a deal this time around on Groupon and were able to save a significant amount off the ticket price by doing so! Check Groupon for your area to see if they are offering this — it showed up a few months before the Tough Mudder event.

Note: This post is in no way, shape, or form sponsored by Tough Mudder. Though if they wanted to sponsor me in some way, I certainly wouldn’t have a problem with that! 😉

This post may contain affiliate links. Read my disclosure policy here.

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  • Chris says:

    My family has tried to participate annually in the Daniel Barden Mudfest in upstate NY because of a family connection. It has been a blast over the years to participate in this 5k, which is up and down incredibly steep hills. We had no idea what we were doing when we started and learned to duck tape our shoes to our feet, wear spandex instead of cotton, layers are super important in upstate NY in April (we’ve had years where it was snowing when we started!). We each bring a plastic bag with a complete change of clothes from the skin out, as well as towels and baby wipes. It is often too cold to take advantage of the outdoor showers. The kids love doing it and challenge each other along the way. The theme of this mud run is team work, helping each other along the way in the way that little Daniel Barden always looked out for anyone in need.

  • Christine says:

    Roughly how many obstacles are there and how far do you run between obstacles?

  • Katy says:

    Do you wash the clothes/shoes you wear? Or just plan to throw them away afterward?

    • Great question! You could throw your clothes and shoes out (or they have a place where you can donate them). We’ve always hosed them off well and then washed them. As you’ll see from the pictures, I actually wore the same outfit and shoes the last two Tough Mudders.

  • Chris says:

    Crystal, I thought this post was a really good one. I have never read a post about how to do the Tough Mudder and I thought what you wrote was very interesting to read because it was about something I didn’t know anything about. Very out of the box thinking on your part of subject matter. Thanks, I learned something today. I am not sure I would do this, myself, but I was very interested to read what you wrote, and thought you expressed yourself well.

    • I’m so glad you enjoyed the post! I’ve gotten a lot of questions on it over the past few years, so I thought it’d be fun to put together a post on it — especially while it was still fresh in my mind since we recently did our third race.

  • Cammie says:

    Thank you for this! Doing a Tough Mudder has been on my bucket list since some of my mountain biker friends did one, and it recently occurred to me that there would be nothing stopping me except an age restriction. I’ve done some googling and it seems like I’d just need an 18+ adult, but I was just wondering if you see a lot of teens? Just wondering how the adults feel about it.

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