From Bodybuilder to Tough Mudder

Leroy SS

I’m an athlete first and foremost. The sport that has pulled me in most recently is bodybuilding. Over the past 3 years I have dedicated myself to that sport. My lifestyle has revolved around that sport. My training and nutrition tailored to making improvements to my physique with the goal in mind of stepping on stage. Since 2015 I have competed in 5 shows in the following order:

As you can see, I’ve done a lot with bodybuilding in the last 2 years. I have won nearly every show I’ve competed in. The dedication has paid off! However, it’s not without its prices. Bodybuilding training often ignores improving athletic skills in favour of focusing on one primary goal: building muscle. When training for a bodybuilding competition, skills such as running and jumping get put on the back burner and are replaced with bicep curls and leg extensions. These exercises have their place, but when it comes to actual athletic ability, they have virtually zero benefit.

Late last year I signed up for my very first Tough Mudder. It takes place August 12th of this year (2017). I have participated in a few 5k obstacle races before and really enjoyed them. They were a fun little challenge and not too difficult. It was a fun way to spend a Saturday with friends and family, all while getting more than a little muddy. This year though, it’s different. This race is 20 kilometres…

Growing up I participated in track and field, as do most kids. I excelled at the sprint races, doing very well in the 100m and 200m. Also, I did quite well in some of the jumping events, specifically long jump and high jump. I didn’t have to practice much. Jumping well and running fast seemed to come naturally to me. These last few years though, I have noticed a decline in my athletic ability. Running is a challenge to say the least. A few minutes in I notice lower back pain begins to set in and I get winded very easily. Anything jumping related bothers my knees and ankles. I call myself an athlete, but these simple athletic skills are very hard on my body…why?

I can sum up the answer in one word: bodybuilding.

Bodybuilding has unfortunately made me a stereotypical bodybuilder. My body is stuff, my joints are tender, and I’m quite un-athletic. I look great, but my body as a whole doesn’t function very well when it comes to basic athletic activates. I decided that if I’m going to take this Tough Mudder seriously, then I need to make some changes. If I’m going to participate in this race and not only survive it, but complete it in a decent time, then I need to revamp my training.

My next bodybuilding competition isn’t until the end of the year, 4 months after the Tough Mudder. This means I can put my bodybuilding training on maintenance for a bit while I focus on other things. Those things being: getting stronger and becoming an athlete again. I developed a program that primarily focuses on those two goals. I lift heavy and focus on the main compound lifts which are the squat, bench press, deadlift, and standing overhead press. These exercises I find give you the most bang for your buck as far as not only building and keeping muscle mass, but getting insanely strong as well. Along with the big lifts I do assistance work to help those lifts get stronger. This is done in a typical bodybuilding fashion, so I still get my bodybuilding fix. The volume is dialed back from what I’m used to, but I believe I will be able to maintain my muscle with the volume I’m doing.

Now the fun part, I have added new exercises and training methods to my weekly schedule including:

  • different types of jumps
  • sprinting
  • distance runs
  • circuits

I formatted my training schedule so that these do not interfere with my strength work, and I can still make progress with them. I enjoy the new challenge of mastering these skills again, and have learned to like the feeling of being out of breathe.

I’m proud to say that I ran my first 5k the other day in just over 30 minutes. This is something a few months ago I would not have even thought of doing, but the challenge this Tough Mudder presents has me fired up! Sprinting has become easier and jumping no longer destroys my joints. I’m noticing my strength steadily increase as more time in the gym is spent on getting stronger versus looking a certain way.

I’m excited to go to the gym again, and knowing that I’ve got heavy squats and box jumps on the agenda tonight means it’s going to be an intense workout!

Happy lifting!

Leroy Rollins

IG: Leroy Rollins

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