How To Train For A 5k Obstacle Race | Mud Run? | My Guide

5k Obstacle Race Training


My Wife & I After A Spartan Sprint!

So you want to do a 5k obstacle race, mud run, zombie run, or whatever new race is coming to town! Great! That is awesome!

The first obstacle race I ever did was a Super Spartan back in 2012 and it ended up being almost 12 miles! Since then I have done a handful of races including, 5k Rugged Maniac, Tough Mudder, and another Spartan. I would do them every weekend if I could, but it takes up a good chunk of the day and family time is important plus it can cost you an easy $100 on each race when all is said and done.

When I first signed up for the Super Spartan I thought it was a 5k, but turned out it was an 8 mile race! What did I just sign up for lol! I had not ran in years and attempted to run 1 mile the week I had signed up. WOW! It whooped me… Most of my training was just running and building up to a 5k distance as well as doing a lot of Insanity & P90X which helped me a lot. On race day I finished, but it was tough!! There were a lot of things I realized I should work on for obstacle races, so I wanted to put together this little training guide for you.

First Let Me Say This…

  • All that  I list below can and should be modified to your level of fitness… If you can do more, do more… if you have to do less do less, just do something! I will try to break it down for people who have not ran a mile in years to someone who can do a 5k on the road no problem, but are not sure about the obstacles.

Why 5k Obstacle Racing Is Different Than A Regular 5k Road Race

  • When I first started I did not really grasp this. I really just figured if I kept running and got the mileage in on my legs “which is important” I would be fine.
  • The truth is that during an obstacle race when you reach an obstacle whether it be climbing over a wall, monkey bars, crawling under wires etc… you are using explosive energy! I still remember the first obstacle at Spartan. It was a simple climb over then under these 3/4 foot walls. Nothing crazy, but I still remember the feeling of wow I just exerted a lot of energy to do that and for a brief moment felt drained!
  • So incorporating explosive exercises and HIIT “high intensity internval training” into your training is SO SO important!
  • Think about it this way… if all you have ever done was run…. picture being at a point in your run where you are struggling or almost at the finish line… now you have to do 20 pushups or climb a rope. That is the obstacle. Switching gears and attacking the obstacle.
  • OK I think you get the point… lets talk about some training.

Who Is This 5k Obstacle Training For?

  • Beginners? – YES
  • Intermediate? – YES
  • Advanced? – YES
  • This is a good overview for anyone and like I said earlier you can modify this to fit your needs or to match whatever equipment you have to use.

My 5K Mud Run WOD

After each total half mile run I added 5 pull ups and 20 push ups. Running was done on a treadmill. I highly advise getting some regular runs on the road or on the trails and even substituting the exercises below with body weight.

Warmup / Stretching – I normally do the Insanity Workout Warm Up & Basic Stretching.
You can do a circuit of… running in place, jumping jacks, air squats & high knees for 30 seconds each for at least 5 minutes to give you an idea.

  • 1/4 mile run – 20 KB Squats “35lbs”
  • 1/4 mile run – 20 DB Lunges “20lbs” – 5 Pull Ups – 20 Push Ups
  • 1/4 mile run – 20 DB Calf Raises “30lbs”
  • 1/4 mile run – 20 Sit Ups – 5 Pull Ups – 20 Push Ups
  • 1/2 mile run – 20 KB Squats “35lbs” – 5 Pull Ups – 20 Push Ups
  • 1/2 mile run – 20 DB Lunges “20lbs”- 5 Pull Ups – 20 Push Ups
  • 1/4mile run – 20 Calf Raises “30lbs”
  • 1/4 mile run – 20 Sit Ups – 5 Pull Ups – 20 Push Ups
  • 1 mile run

Total mileage above is 3.5 miles… a 5k is 3.10 miles.

This workout takes me about 50 minutes to complete!

I have no doubt in my mind that if you can complete the above workout you can complete any obstacle 5k race or even reg 5k race with no issues whatsoever!

How Many Times Should I Do This Workout?

  • It really depends when the race is! So many people tell me…. hey I signed up for this 5k next week what should I do. LOL… A week won't change much if you are not in great shape, but in that case I would say go and run as far as you can for a day or two and see what happens, at least you will get some mileage on your legs before the race.
  • If you have signed up for a race and given yourself a few months to train that is ideal.
  • Depending on your fitness level I would say you can give this workout a try 1-2 times a week as well as adding just some straight runs in another 1-2 days a week. Again if it is too much just dial it down… cut the mileage down, cut the reps down, use body weight etc…. If you are sore…. REST… if you feel pain… REST… be sure to cool down and do light stretching after as well.
  • Hey for the most part people that have not really trained will finish the race, it just might take a few hours and that is OK. They might skip an obstacle. That is OK too! Don't be intimidated by that, just go at your own pace and make it happen in your own time. This is supposed to be fun right?? 😉

Equipment Issues?

  • With the above if you do not have a kettlebell you can use a dumbbell… if you do not have a dumbbell you can hold something heavy. Heck just doing those moves with your own body weight is going to be a challenge so just do that.
  • If you do not have a pull up bar I would suggest getting one since most races have you doing a lot of climbing and pulling yourself up.
  • I do this on a treadmill since everything is right there in my garage gym, but there is no reason you cannot use any phone app to track mileage and do this out on the road and just use body weight.
  • If you are advanced and have access to a jump box, squat rack, barbells etc… I would add those in, even some dead lifts, cleans, and more power moves.


Hey no worries! Like I said… you can adjust this to your needs. Maybe you can only run a mile so adjust this for a mile and if using weights is too much or you don't have weights just use your own body weight. That will work fine. If you cannot run a mile then walk a mile… you get the point.

You could work you way up to the 5k as well doing this workout 2 or 3 times a week at 1 mile, then week 2 jump to 2 miles, then week 3 to the full workout.

When Should You Stop Training?

  • I hate to sound like a broken record, but it really does matter what your fitness level is.
  • If your race is on a Saturday the truth is the training you do 5-7 days before might not really make or break the race for you.
  • If you are super fit you might run a 5k the day before, but you need to know how your body will react. You do not want to be sore on race day!
  • I would say for most people stop working out 2-3 days before race day. Maybe do a nice light warmup and stretch the day before or 2 days before, but rest your body, get some good sleep, keep the diet in check and be ready for game  day!

I hope I was able to explain a few things and why training for a mud run is not just about getting miles in, but working on other muscle groups to build up some strength and endurance for the obstacles.

We are all different so I would love to hear feedback if you have questions or would love to point something out. I am just a regular dude with 3 kids trying to stay fit. I don't know everything, but I figure some of this might actually help a few people.





About the Author


Jack of all trades... master of none! Father of 3 awesome boys, husband to 1 amazing wife! Obstacle racer, procrastinator, computer nerd, trying not to follow the herd!

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  • Marlene says:

    If my training is only in the track how do I substitute weights with body weight?

    • FitDadChris says:

      Well you really can’t but most people body weight still works if you go at it more intensely. Another thing you could do is bring a set up dumbbells with you… nothing crazy, maybe 10lb dumbbells. Don’t worry nobody will think you are crazy 😉

  • Kris says:

    Sorry to be posting months after, but I just found the article. I’m gearing up for my first Rugged Maniac and excited as can be. Saw the question and wanted to offer an old habit. Take a backpack and through in some books and add in in clothes to keep everything stable. If you take two, you can put one in each hand, or just hold the bag in one and do one side at a time – which helps the stabilizing muscles. Every lap, just grab the bag(s) and do your stuff. If on a trail, just take the one bag and take it off every quarter mile. Just an idea.
    Great article, I am going to start using these on my jog days. Doing Insanity for the first time and I’m 17 days into the program, but I still want to get my jogging in at least twice a week.

  • Candyce Norris says:

    My son and I just ran our first Rugged Terrain 5k yesterday. The goal was to finish and we did! My health is not good so my son and I used 5k training for my lung rehab. What a difference this has made for my over health and stamina. My doctor is amazed at my recovery. Three years ago I was on a ventilator and yesterday 5k rugged terrain. In two weeks we will be in a normal 5k. So happy with what this has done for my health. Thank you for your running guide.

    • FitDadChris says:

      That is awesome!! Crazy how you can go from ventilator to where you are now. People think sometimes “I could never do that!” , but you are proof!

      Congrats and I am glad you enjoyed the guide

  • Dawn says:

    I completed my 1st mud run on 7/10/16. I started training for this in Jan and followed a program where I would be in the gym 4-6 times a week. I followed the Rugged Regimen by ESP 365. I am in decent shape. I did 2 dualthons last year and have been running a good amount of 5k’s up to 5 miles. I have to tell you after completing this mud run, I am so much more in tune with my body! I was eating clean as well while I was training. No alcohol, no bread, no white rice, anything that didn’t have any nutritional value wasn’t going in my body! I am so looking forward to this event again next year and many years into the future!

    • FitDadChris says:

      Awesome sounds great! I need to check out some Dualthons! I tried one a long long time ago, but my bike tire rim bent about 3 miles in and that was it! lol

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