Mud run events lure hundreds of thousands of people into slippery, slimy obstacle courses every year. Their unique mix of fun, exertion, and absurdity seems to appeal to a diverse crowd that ranges from athletic to very out-of-shape. Preparing for this type of event can provide just the motivation some people need to make fitness a priority. On the other hand, mud runs can be a harsh wake-up call for those who have an inflated image of their fitness and fail to train.

If you’re considering doing one of these events this summer, here are some helpful and humorous reminders of what you’ll need to do to whip yourself into shape, what to expect the day of the race, and what to do after you’ve accomplished this fun fitness milestone.

1. Have a base level of fitness.

Most mud runs are 5 kilometers (3.1 miles), so it’s always a good idea to know you can walk/run this distance (even though some of it will be obstacles). You won’t need to run the entire distance – there will be plenty of walkers, but knowing you can spend that much time on your feet, comfortably, will help you enjoy it a lot more than if you’re struggling just to breath.
If you’re not ready to walk/run 5K, start as early as 9 weeks in advance, gradually working up to the full distance, or at least 45 minutes of nonstop movement. Apps such as Run Keeper and Couch to 5K can help you keep on track with weekly workouts in the fitness gym leading up the event.

Secondly, you’ll want to fit in some body-weight calisthenics to help you get over cargo nets, crawl under barbed wire, and leap over pits of fire. If you’re just trying to survive injury-free, 1-2 weekly fitness center circuits of squats, pushups, lunges, and plyometric (jump) training should do the trick. In the end, as long as you’re in decent shape, you should be fine. Just be warned that the most out-of-shape you are, the more you’ll hurt the next day.

2. Wear minimal clothing you don’t care about.

Take it from the experienced: you will get mud literally everywhere, and you might lose your shoes. This should go without saying, but you’d be surprised at how many people make poor clothing choices or lose their new pair of running shoes in the mud pit. Also, keep in mind that the shower you’ll be getting after the event is public, so it might not be a bad idea to wear a swimsuit under your clothing, or bring what you need to make yourself feel comfortable.

3. Don’t do anything stupid like dive into a mud pit.

Everyone’s seen the news stories of injuries and deaths due to people making very bad choices during a mud run. Don’t be one of those people. Safety guidelines are provided for a reason, so read them thoroughly and don’t get caught up in an ill-fated moment of bravado.

4. Stay hydrated and be careful of hazards.

Even though mud runs are more fun than athletic, it’s still important to remain hydrated before and after the race, especially in hot conditions. Also watch out for slippery areas – one of the main hazards of thousands of people trudging through mud and water. Tackle cargo nets and balance beams with particular caution, and if you don’t think you can safely navigate an obstacle, ask a friend to lend a hand.

5. Bring both participating and spectating friends.

The more friends you include in your mud run, the more you’ll have, and the better time you’ll have testing the limits of your fitness together. It’s also good to bring along someone who can take pictures and hold your valuables.

If a mud run sounds like something you’d like to attempt at least one time in your life, now’s the time to start preparing! Get it on your calendar, pay your registration, and start hitting the health club so you’ll be ready to join the rest of those crazy, exhilarated people.