The infamously challenging Tough Mudder is returning June 11-12 to Northstar California Resort to push the limits of endurance for its competitors -- and punish the woefully unprepared. You may have seen your sweatband-clad Facebook friends posting videos of miserable Mudders crawling through suffocating sewer pipes, hopelessly clambering up slick half-pipe walls or charging full on through thickets of electrified wires and either thought, “never in a million years,” or, “where do I sign up?”

The hesitant can be forgiven considering the numerous horror stories found online, including bowel infections from drinking muddy water and droves of participants treated for heat exhaustion. However, with more than 2.5 million participants raising $10 million for charity to date, the 12-mile obstacle course has inspired a dedicated subculture of thrill seekers from many walks of life. If you’re considering taking the plunge (literally, there’s an obstacle called “The Arctic Enema” which involves diving into ice-cold mud) make sure you come prepared.

1. Bring backup

Camaraderie is the main tenet of Tough Mudder and many of the obstacles are designed to be difficult or impossible to complete without a helping hand. Whether it’s your old Special Forces Unit or your office coworkers, being part of a team comes in handy when, say, needing to form a human pyramid to overcome a vertical wall or calling your next of kin when you pass out from smoke inhalation or a drastically mistimed jump. Signing up with a team is by no means required however, and lone wolfs compete successfully every year. Just don’t be afraid to reach out to a fellow member of the “mudderhood” when you need help carrying a giant log across the finish line -- or snapping your next profile pic for you.

2. Dress accordingly

Mudders in past events have completed the course in everything from superhero costumes, traditional mariachi attire, even a mascot-like bear suit (of which there are some great YouTube videos online). Depending on your own goals, your gear could mean the difference between a celebratory beer at the finish line, or a refreshing saline IV drip courtesy of the paramedics. The Tough Mudder’s online forum is full of firsthand accounts of items and clothing found to be most waterproof, fire resistant and shock absorbent. Sturdy footwear, gaiters and gloves all are good places to start.

3. Train for the pain

Much like beach season, the time to start training for Tough Mudder is a few months prior -- not the weekend before. While one doesn’t have to be an Olympian to complete much less enjoy the course, without a certain level of physical prowess, your experience could easily go from fun and challenging to miserable and dangerous. The course is 10 to 12 miles long, littered with more than two dozen military-style obstacles requiring balance, upper-body strength and no small degree of mental fortitude. Training guides are available on the Tough Mudder website, as well as a readiness quiz to give you a sense of what you’re in for. Also consider conditioning yourself for the environmental aspects of the challenges -- being submerged in freezing mud might be a little more bearable after a few cold showers at home first.

4. Risk over reward

There’s no time keeping in a Tough Mudder, which means winning suddenly has a much more subjective definition. A little claustrophobic? Wriggling your way through all 50 feet of Trench Warfare’s pitch black, 2-foot-wide, mud-clogged sewer pipe could be a huge accomplishment. Not very good on the monkey bars as a kid? Traversing the butter-and-mud slicked bars of “Funky Monkey” might relieve some of your residual playground shame. The challenges are meant to push you beyond your comfort level, and completing previously unimaginable tasks is a feeling that many Mudders fall in love with. However, not all limits are made to be broken, and just as those with pacemakers might want to skip Electroshock Therapy, participants can skip any obstacles that just aren’t in their wheelhouse. Know your body and put safety first.

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