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  • Mitchell Rothbardt

My Rugged Maniac Experience

Hello, everyone. I hope everyone had a great weekend. I certainly did.

I did because I did something I’ve never done before. One of those mud run obstacle races. It was called the Rugged Maniac and took place at the Alameda County Fairgrounds. It was quite the experience! I don’t usually write about myself here, but I just want to recount the experience I had.


Me and my son Robbie covered in mud after the Rugged Maniac


First of all I’ve never done anything like this before. I train as a powerlifter so doing endurance training, long runs in particular, are not usually a part of my training. I was kind of guilted into doing it because a client of mine named Tammy walked into the gym one morning and announced to everyone that she and another client named Steve had signed up for it. She asked me if I wanted to join in.

Let me digress for a moment and say that I belive that one of the most important, if not THE most important things I do as a trainer is take people out of their comfort zone in a way that is appropriate and helpful. Everyone is different in this respect and everyone has a different tolerance to how far they can go and still progress. We know without a doubt that everyone needs to go outside of their comfort zone to improve, but if they go too far out of it they can actually regress.

For example, let’s say you want to start exercising. You see a trainer and they tell you you’ll be squatting today. If they have you do a bodyweight squat like this:


that should take you out of your comfort zone enough to get a good result. However, if your trainer leads you to a rack with this on it:


I’m guessing they don’t have a good idea about taking people out of their comfort zone in an appropriate way.

Anyway, I thought that if I didn’t join in I wouldn’t exactly be walking the walk, as it were, so I decided to sign up.

The first thing people asked me is how I changed my training. The answer is not much. Really there were only two changes.

  1. I did more running and general conditioning. This took the form of sprints, battle ropes, heavy bag work and the air bike and was mostly done when I was finished with my lifting for the day. I’d say that the majority of this was running sprints. I pushed my conditioning pretty hard while doing it and while it was all done interval-style, I mixed up the timing between 15 second and 2 minute intervals.

  2. I did more pull-ups. I’ve always done pull-ups but I knew that one of the obstacles was going to be a monkey-bar kind of thing so I did pull-ups during every single upper body workout. I also progressed them a little bit so that every time I did one, I let go with one hand for a second to mimic the obstacle.

An important takeaway here is that nothing can train you for a specific activity as well as doing the specific activity. In other words if I need to improve my running, I have to run. Other things I do in the gym can put me in a better position to improve my running, but nothing is as good as running itself. (This is a pretty simple concept, but it doesn’t mean that the activity itself should be the only thing you do. That can create imbalances and issues that can cause problems.)

On Rugged Maniac day I really didn’t know what to expect but I was looking forward to it. I immediately knew that doing the extra running was a good idea as it started out with a run of maybe a quarter-mile or so to the first obstacle as well other runs between each obstacle. The first obstacle was one that we’d see a few times throughout the day albeit in different forms. Basically something you’d climb up and over. Some of these were like wooden ladders, some were rope ladders and some of them got to at least 15 feet off the ground. I’m not a huge fan of heights but I pushed and pulled myself up and over them. Robbie was absolutely flying through everything right ahead of me.

Some of the other notable obstacles included crawling through chest deep mud under barbed wire. It wasn’t as dangerous as it might sound but it was pretty tough as the mud didn’t have much of anything to hold on to. There were also many opportunities to demonstrate balance over a floating pad or beam. If you fell there was some lovely dirty water to catch you. We tried to keep our team together for the most part and that meant waiting for a few minutes after some of the obstacles. Robbie didn’t want to wait, though and did some of them twice! What a machine!

The toughest obstacle was actually the last one. The warped wall. You might be familiar with this if watch American Ninja Warrior.


You have to run up and over the wall. There are some people at the top to help you get over it. The wall is about 15 or so feet high and is really pretty intimidating. It certainly was for me as I was a little tired at that point, having gone for about an hour and fifteen minutes over three miles. I was also feeling pretty slippery and covered in mud. Lastly I realized a little early on that my beloved Converse Chuck Taylors were not the best shoes for this race. Not much of traction on those flat soles. Particular when covered in mud.

Anyway, I lined myself up and sprinted for the wall. I wasn’t expecting to get too far on my first run as I was watching many people take 2 or 3 tries before getting over it. That was a mistake as I got almost all the way up! It sounds good except that as I found myself, surprisingly, nearly to the top of the wall I haphazardly threw my arm up to grab the top and tweaked my shoulder a little in the process. I had some help getting over it but I do think that with a better approach I could have made it over under my own power. Rest assured although the shoulder still hurts a little, it’s getting better and I’m sure it will be fine in another day or two.

Overall, Rugged Maniac was a great experience and I took some things away from it.

  1. Getting out of your comfort is a tough, but very important thing to do. I saw some of my team members doing some crazy things even though I know it was hard for them and that really inspired me to do the best I could. When you get out of your box, no matter how you do, it always feel pretty darn good!

  2. Proper strength training really is athletic training. As I said, with minimal changes in my usual training program I sailed right through and felt fine doing it. I was actually very surprised that I had pretty much no soreness at all the next day.

  3. Who doesn’t like mud? After literally crawling through a trench of mud I don’t think I saw anyone who wasn’t smiling.

  4. I think I actually liked running a little. This might have the biggest surprise of the day. I’ve always liked sprinting (don’t take this to mean I’m at all fast) but maybe adding some longer runs to my training won’t be such a bad thing. Hmmmm.

Anyway, thanks for reading. If you did the race please let me know what your experience was.

Have a great day!

Mitch Rothbardt, CPT, PN Level 2 Lean Eating Coach, FMS Mitch Rothbardt Fitness at 2861 Grove Way 510-754-7113 www.MitchRFitness.com MitchRFitness@gmail.com http://www.Facebook.com/MitchRothbardtFitness

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