Tough Guy Training Plan

This training plan is based around the Tough Guy winter run in January though it can be used for the Tough Guy Nettle warrior event later in the year, or adapted to any other mud run or obstacle race.

It is made up of 4 shorter workouts and one longer workout per week.

How long does it take to get you in Tough Guy shape? Well these are not fixed level workouts so as you get better they get harder. The longer you have to use them for training the better you will be.

The first workout

This is the long run workout. 15km, once a week.

Tough Guy is (give or take) a 15km race. This workout is just to get you used to covering that sort of distance. Don’t worry about speed, certainly initially, just make sure you cover the distance.

Walk if you have to.

As per the long run workout article use an interval timer and gradually increase your speed.

Once you are comfortable covering the distance start adding in burpees at fixed distances. With this workout keep a note of the intervals used, and the total overall time, as well as the burpees and intervals they occurred at.

Each time you do this workout tweak it slightly to improve it but make sure that you cover the distance.

The second workout

This workout is tabata hill sprints. Tough Guy has a lot of short steep hills and if you can do well on them it will give you a chance to pull away from people who haven’t trained it.

Warm up well, find a steep hill (at least 45 degrees) and use the interval timer to keep track.

With this workout there is very little to keep track of apart from overall distance covered (if you want to).

The idea here is that as you improve you will run faster on each interval. Just make sure that if you decide to stay stationary on the rest period that you always do so in your workout or that will throw out the distance covered.

You can substitute steps for the hills at a push but I would recommend against it. One the race you will be dealing with steep muddy hills with poor grip. The closer you can replicate that in training the better you will be.

The third workout

This time it is box jump burpees. Ideally using the thousand burpee challenge as a basis. This trains you in endurance, mobility and with the box jump it adds some co-ordination.

Burpees are probably the best all round endurance and fitness builder and even though you wont be doing them on the day (unless Mr Mouse adds them in for you obstacle-skipping layabouts) their benefits are readily transferable to the course obstacles.

Yes, I know you hate burpees. Everyone hates burpees. But come Tough Guy race day you will be glad you did them in training.


The fourth workout

This time it is the Apocalypse Workout. This is a mix of speed, crawling, burpees and jogging.

Aim to do 30 minutes while keeping a constant pace up. Note time, distance covered and location in your training log. This is the all rounder that brings everything together.

The fifth and final workout.

This time it is 30 minutes kettlebell swings.  You definitely will not be doing swings during the Tough Guy race but they do work your endurance and keep your core strong like very little else. They also work your grip strength and, on Tough Guy race day, every bit of grip strength you have will be useful.

Use the same principle as for the 1000 burpee challenge and try to build up how many you do each session.

If you do not have access to a kettlebell do a 30 minute interval run instead. Same principle as the long distance run but for 30 minutes. Try to really keep the speed up on the high intervals as much as you can.


It is fair to say Tough Guy is not a fitness test in a gym. If you want to excel you have to train in conditions similar to those you will face.

These workouts can be done in nice, safe, sterile conditions. Running on nice smooth tracks, burpees in a warm air-conditioned gym and so on. Maybe, if you have time, you could even start your workouts that way for the first couple of weeks until you get used to them. They should not stay in those safe, warm, cuddly conditions though.

Tough Guy is not safe, warm or cuddly. Mr Mouse is not safe, warm or cuddly. Your training should not be safe, warm or cuddly.

Get outside into the wild. Find off-road tracks to run on, uneven and muddy surfaces to sprint through. Find cold running streams or shallow cold seas to do burpees in.

Make your training challenging mentally as well as physically.

Be that person who wants it to rain for a workout, who doesn’t wait for the hail to stop before they go for a run.

Train in the real world or run the risk of the real world beating you come race day.

In particular train in the cold and the wet. The cold is the single biggest reason for people dropping out of the Tough Guy winter race, and no matter how fit you are and how fast you run, how you deal with that cold and repeated water obstacles is going to be key.