These Are Some Tough Mudders

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By: Mary Stanley
Published: 03/16/12

As dawn broke last Saturday, with temperatures just below freezing, Leigh A. Winters of Clipper Circle was already up and heading out to Scorton Creek in East Sandwich for some morning exercise.

But this was not going to be a run-of-the mill jog or leisurely paced walk through the woods.

No. This workout would involve strapping on a backpack loaded down with 10 to 15 pounds of rocks and running four miles through the trails surrounding the creek. Along the way, she would stop to do pushups in the sand, heave logs over her head, hang for as long as she could from a tree, and wade waist-deep through the bitterly cold water.

Ms. Winters was not alone in her down-and-dirty workout on Saturday morning.

She was accompanied by seven members of her fitness training group who use nature, rather than gym equipment, to build strength and stamina.

This team has been meeting since the beginning of February to train for the Tough Mudder competition in Vermont. Tough Mudder, which is billed as the “toughest event on the planet,” has a hard-core, 10- to 12-mile outdoor obstacle course designed by British Special Forces to push contestants to their physical limits. It is a team event that includes mad dashes through mud and water. Log carrying, monkey bar and rope climbing, tunnel crawling, and wall scaling are among the two dozen “challenges” that participants face.

The event raises money for the Wounded Warrior Project, which provides support to military service men and women returning from the battlefield.

Trainer and teammate Lee (Doc) Docherty of Dennisport explained that the team’s training sessions and the Tough Mudder go beyond physical fitness.

“This is about building strength and stamina but it’s also about working together to support and encourage each other,” Mr. Docherty said.

Teammate Kate C. Jones of Westwind Circle, Sandwich, agreed.

“We need to go through this as a team,” she said, adding that there is definitely a sense of camaraderie among her teammates. “This is about getting through the competition and helping the people around us to get through it, too,” Ms. Jones said.

Mr. Docherty, who owns UK Sports Development in Hyannis and designs the team’s workouts, puts the group through outdoor obstacle courses, where rocks are used to weigh down backpacks, logs are used as weights and balance beams and trees are used to test his team’s endurance.

“You don’t need expensive gym equipment to get physically fit,” he said.

In one challenge Saturday morning, team members were instructed to wrap their arms and legs around the trunks of pine trees and hold on for several minutes.

“That may have been the toughest one this week. I think we may have only had to hold on for a minute or two, but it seemed like forever,” Ms. Jones said.

Mr. Docherty said the training not only pushes the team physically, it also challenges them mentally.
“It requires a great will to do this stuff,” he said

“So much of this training is psychological,” Ms. Winters agreed. “Every week, it gets more and more intense. But it’s fantastic. It pushes me to a point where I am saying, ‘I never thought I could do that.’ I feel limitless—like there is nothing I can’t do,” she said.

Ms. Winters said she initially decided to begin the outdoor training and enter Tough Mudder to inject a little variety into her regular workouts.

“Originally, this was a fitness thing for me but it is so far beyond that now,” she said. “I just love this.”
Though the team members had never met one another before the training began, the teammates have managed to form a tight bond that is built on trust and respect and are committed to supporting one another.

“We’re not doing this alone. We’re doing this together, and I trust them,” Ms. Winters said.

Since the obstacle course for the upcoming Tough Mudder event was developed by the British Special Forces, as a former paratrooper for that military organization, Mr. Docherty is qualified to be training the team.

He admitted, however, that since the obstacle course is changed from year to year, neither he nor anyone else knows for sure what “challenges” will be included in this year’s Mudder. And so he is trying to develop a training regimen that will prepare his team for any and every kind of challenge they may face.

“If we can make the training harder than the actual event, everyone can get through this with all of their limbs,” Mr. Docherty said.

The Tough Mudder competition is scheduled for May 5 and 6 at Mount Snow in Vermont.


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