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Fitness experts stress the importance of training for extreme activities

WATCH ABOVE: With names like “Tough Mudder”, “Spartan Sprint” and “Mud Hero,” extreme fitness events are becoming more common. But so are the injuries that can come with them. Su-Ling Goh reports.

EDMONTON – Whether it’s Tough Mudder or a Spartan Race, extreme fitness races are becoming increasingly popular for people looking to test their fitness level.

From crawling through mud and swinging from ropes, to flipping tires and throwing sandbags, these types of races are designed to push participants’ strength, endurance and their limits.

“Tons of obstacles, lots of mud, lots of ropes, lots of walls,” said Tabitha Grady, who recently ran a Spartan Super which involved a nine-mile run and plenty of obstacles. “I’d say for most people it is a bucket list item, it is for fun, it is for a challenge and it is for fitness, ultimately.”

But without proper training, injuries can happen.

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“They’re hard on the body in the way that if you’re not trained for it or prepared for it your body is going to get some kick back,” said Danielle Smith, a trainer with River City Fitness.

“Climbing up the rope and getting rope burn because they’re not aware of how to climb up the rope safely. I’ve heard of people running up the hills with the sandbags (and) it’s just too much on their lower back because their back wasn’t prepared for it.”

READ MORE: Working out ’til you’re sick? Doctors warn of rhabdo, a deadly condition linked to over exercising

Smith runs obstacle course training courses in Edmonton. She says training for the race is just as important as the race itself, even for those who are already physically active.

“We say it’s the difference between doing a race and being sore for two weeks and possibly getting injured, or training for it and getting your muscles ready and alive to carry your own body weight.”

“Training is very important when it comes to injury prevention,” added Grady, who suffered flexor issues and tendonitis from overuse. “It’s very important to train and increase your intensity and your mileage … to increase slowly and incrementally so your body can adjust and accommodate accordingly.”

Smith suggests HIIT (High-intensity interval training) mixed with jogging or running. She says it’ll make you feel muscles you didn’t even know you had.

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“If you’re doing a run or jog and then you do 10 burpees, 20 burpees; or you could do tire flips and then run or jog and you could do sandbag carry,” she said. “There’s things that end up being sore the next day that you wouldn’t even have any idea, like the inside of your calf because as you’re crawling through that barbed wire you’re really pushing off of your leg.”

READ MORE: HIIT fitness trend on the rise, as are injuries and warnings

And while the races may look intimidating to some, both Smith and Grady say they’re for all ages and all fitness levels.

“They’re a lot of fun and they keep people challenged and interested,” said Smith.

“You get to be a kid in a playground again, there’s no expectation,” said Grady. “You don’t have to be buff, you don’t have to be anything but excited and eager to try something new.”

According to the Alberta Bone and Joint Health Institute hip replacements among patients under the age of 60 have more than doubled in the past decade, partly because of extreme fitness.

With files from Su-Ling Goh, Global News.

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