Posted in Achieve, Health & Fitness, Sports on 16 October 2014 | by Amit

The Interview: James Cracknell Talks To Elysium Magazine

For those brave discerning gents preparing themselves for the torture, pain and utter demolition of the body that extreme obstacle racing represents, Elysium Magazine can only salute your sheer determination and marvel at your courage. We may also question your sanity but that doesn’t take anything away for the sense of accomplishment finishing such an event provides. One man knows these feelings all too well – British rowing champion and double Olympic gold medallist – James Cracknell. He is also an adventurer but who’s counting?


Here, James guides Elysium Magazine through how best to prepare the body and the mind for extreme obstacle races such as Tough Mudder (London race 25-26th October) or Tough Guy.


Elysium Magazine (EM): What’s it like participating in such a gruelling obstacle race?

James Cracknell (JC): I competed in the Tough Guy a few years back – and I guess the Marathon des Sables also counts (admittedly the mud there is slightly drier.)


Extreme obstacle races are  famously gruelling and cold, so I’d ask yourself three key questions in preparation for the race:

  1. Is your aim to compete or complete? If the answer is the former, you’re going to need to put in a lot of training to get yourself in the best possible position to nail a good time. If it’s the latter, you can probably take things a bit easier and look forward to ‘enjoying ’ a day in the mud.
  2. Are you kitted out? You can count on the organisers doing what the Russian’s did with the snow at the Sochi Olympics and make things as wet and muddy as possible. You need to think about what you’re going to wear and buy some new kit – even though it will probably get ruined on the day.
  3. Are you prepared to get soaked? It sounds obvious, but you can’t do obstacle courses like Tough Mudder without getting covered, head to. So, when the gun goes, get stuck in from the start. Don’t try to avoid getting wet and muddy at the first obstacle; in these events, ‘clean’ is always temporary.


EM: So how do you actually train and condition yourself for such a physically demanding event?

JC: As for the training, the advantage of a developing a decent 10km pace will be a massive benefit. Focus on doing plenty of interval training, and mix it up with threshold and lactate tolerance sessions to get your body used to working hard and coping with the pleasure that is lactic acid.


Also, run off-road. It isn’t going to be on a track or nicely paved pathway, so why train on those surfaces? Hill-train sprints will get your body used to squelching through tough ground. Another piece of advice is to train with a weights vest and ankle weights so you’re not surprised by having to race in heavy kit. Just build up the distances/intensity with the added weight slowly.


EM: What’s the best type of kit and equipment for the job?

JC: In terms of kit on the day, I’d go light. Choose material that wicks and dries quickly; avoid cotton or anything that soaks up water like a sponge. As for trainers, take a look at the course on the event website and perhaps invest in a pair of off-road/adventure racing shoes which have drainage built in. These allow any water you plough through to escape rather than accompanying you for the rest of the 10km and of course fuel up with appropriate kind of energy drinks such as ActiVeman Energy and refuel with Bio-Synergy Essential Sports Fuel.

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