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ShortList fitness challenge: Tough Mudder

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It’s the same every year, the Christmas holiday finishes and everyone comes back to work, all a couple of kilograms heavier and all with a firm goal of fitness for the year ahead. Then someone in the office suggests we set ourselves a goal. Some kind of event in the coming months which means we can’t just let our fitness aspirations drift away as the weeks take their course. This is the point where someone sent around a link to Tough Mudder.

It isn’t your normal race. It’s not just signing up to a 10k in a park down the road and hastily doing a few weeks’ training just to make sure you can finish it. This is a little bit more difficult. A 12-mile obstacle course made up of electric shocks, fire, lifting heavy things, climbing high things, jumping off high things and a fair amount of freezing cold water.

We ignored all of this at the time. With our New Year’s resolutions of being athletes by the summer, this all looked like a walk in the park. We’d probably be doing these every weekend by then. Now five months into 2013 and the reality is sinking in a little further. This may actually be quite hard.

So with about a month left before the event, the Shortlist Media team are preparing for the worst. Eight of our best “athletes” are taking on the challenge, all working on our own individual training tactics to survive the course. Here’s where we’ll let you know how we’re getting on, whether it’s good or bad.

Did we mention electric shocks?

One week to go

With less than one week to go, emotions among the team are showing. Some of us are counting down the hours until we finally get to test ourselves against the various obstacles; others are just looking a bit sheepish when reminded about it, then wandering off. So at this pivotal point we decided to test our fitness levels.

According to Nigel Thomas, an ex-SAS member and the man that designs the Tough Mudder obstacles, the best way to train for the event is circuit training. With that in mind we visited Barry’s Bootcamp, a series of classes offering intense cardio workouts with strength training.

Some of us had done similar classes before and were comfortable in the knowledge that what we were undertaking was well within our abilities. After all, how different could it be from all the other circuit training classes out there? Surely there’s only so much exercise you can do in one room in an hour. After 20 minutes our attitudes had changed.

The first 15 minutes of interval running on the treadmills pushed us hard enough to work up a sweat. However it was the following weighted floor exercises that really started testing us: a blast of lunges, squats and shoulder presses all in quick succession as our instructor Anya watched everyone closely, making sure we were keeping up and performing the exercises correctly.

With a just a few seconds to reach for the towel we jumped back on the treadmill for another interval sprint session before some final floor work using resistance bands. It was then that the music changed from dance to something a bit more relaxing, marking the end of the workout and the start of some light stretching. Very rarely have we felt such relief.

As a workout class it was hard, much harder than circuit classes we’ve done before, but it was enjoyable as well. As the trainer walks around the room motivating everyone individually by name, it feels as if you’re benefiting from a personal training class. We just wished we’d started doing it earlier on as it was clear that frequently using these sessions would have an enormous impact on our overall fitness for events like Tough Mudder. Still, just finishing the class gave us some much-needed confidence.

You can book classes directly from the website or follow on Facebook and Twitter for updates.

See how we did at the event here.

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