Corinna Coffin has placed first and second in consecutive Tough Mudder X Championships. Here’s how the sport’s badass tackles ‘the toughest mile on the planet.’
With a plentiful prize pool, the Tough Mudder X (TMX) draws some of the most ambitious athletes in the world. They represent multiple disciplines and count on a fierce fight to determine who’s fittest and fastest.
The TMX obstacle course race (OCR) navigates 10 intense fitness challenges like monkey bars and the sandbag carry crammed into a single mile. Top male and female winners take home $25,000 at the TMX championship each August. TMX is part of the Tough Mudder race series, which ranges from 5 kilometers in length to 24 hours in duration.
Corinna Coffin, 25, a sports nutrition graduate student and Salt Lake City CrossFit competitor, won the TMX Championships last year and took second in the 2018 go-around. It’s been rewarding for her bank account — and her confidence.
We caught up with Coffin (no easy feat) during some rare downtime to find out some of her training secrets.
Tough Mudder Training: Corinna Coffin’s OCR Tips
Coffin, who calls herself a “hybrid” athlete, has mastered the OCR preparation combo: high-intensity interval training (HIIT), endurance, agility, and speed. It’s what she knows. In her youth, Coffin took on lacrosse, soccer, cross country, and triathlon.
She added CrossFit for strength and power. Coffin works out hard five days a week. One day is for “active recovery,” and the last is a full day of downtime. She keeps her endurance in check by biking, running, and swimming.
But a lot of athletes manage a similar training plan. That doesn’t mean they can win a Tough Mudder. But Coffin offers five ideas for aspiring OCR athletes.
1. Approach life as an obstacle course.
Sure, we all have “life obstacles” thrown at us on the daily, but I’m talking about our everyday environments. Take the stairs when you’re at work; hop the fence at the park; ride your bike or walk to the grocery store; balance on low ledges or rocks (but don’t get too crazy).
Actually play on the playground and monkey bars with your kids. Believe it or not, all of these things will translate to your next OCR and make you more proficient.
In undergrad and now graduate school, I realized just how sedentary my day could be aside from my training hours at the gym. Once I decided to approach my entire day as an opportunity to move and make myself better, I began to see improvements in my races.
2. Get training partners who push you.
We all love to win. But if you’re winning all your workouts, you probably need to find some training buddies that will give you a run for your money. Otherwise, you’ll get complacent. If you don’t usually work out with other people, this approach might be worth a try.
Facebook and other social outlets can be helpful for finding training groups, as well as group fitness classes. For me, the CrossFit gym is one of the best places to find other competitive souls who I can rely on to give me a whooping.
3. No more second-guessing yourself.
Obstacle proficiency requires 100 percent confidence and zero self-doubt. You must attack obstacles with the utmost determination and confidence. Take a moment before you make the leap, visualize yourself succeeding, then go for it. If you stop and think too long, you’ll psyche yourself out.
This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t or can’t be nervous about attempting an obstacle. (Believe me, I get nervous about certain obstacles every single race.) Take the monkey bars for example. I’ve done them a thousand times, but add water and my confidence suddenly plummets.
I’ve learned to take a deep breath, visualize my success through the obstacle, and keep my gaze up at the bars, not down at the water. Once I commit to that first bar, I don’t stop moving.
No one shows up for their first OCR familiar with all (if any!) of the obstacles. You just have to jump in with both feet.
4. There’s more to being “fit” than the physical.
If you don’t take care of your body from the inside out (meaning nutrition and mental health), you won’t reap the full effects of your training. Besides, OCRs are more mental than anything. I use a lot of positive self-talk and visualization to keep my head in the game. But I’m still working on this.
If your mind is right, your body will follow suit.
To help my body do what it should, my diet consists of a lot of whole foods and complex carbohydrates to fuel training. I don’t follow any particular nutrition plan, but I like to focus on micronutrients (really nutrient-dense foods like plants!) just as much as the macronutrients.
5. Keep go-to gear simple.
When it comes to race day, I like to keep things pretty simple. A good pair of shoes with some quality traction (such as the Altra Superior or King MT) and some good-fitting compression clothing does the trick for me.
For example, I’ve worn the same pair of Altra Superiors [the brand sponsors Coffin] for every single TMX race I’ve competed in. I retired them only after this last TMX Championship.