I decided to write down some thoughts on my training and share with you. You can place the following headings in any order. Mine are probably in this order but it varies. All these headings are combined with a goal at the end to keep the motivation levels high.
- Hydration and Nutrition
- Strength, Cross Training and Bike
These are my 6 main headings for any weeks training. I vary my training and listen to my body and mind as best I can. Looking at my training over the past few years I would say things have gone well, I have been relatively injury free, have finished every race I have started and I train roughly 10 hours a week. This time may go up to 20 or down to 5 on certain weeks between racing but in general I use about 10-15 as my baseline. I reckon quality training rather than quantity of training works best for me. Some people prefer big mileage but in my experience you will gain most of this in races. This is not saying that you only do a long run of 10km a week when preparing for an ultramarathon but you can run a strong half marathon distance in training on the weekend meaning you can train again on Monday. Is there any point running 50 or 60km on the weekend and not being able to move until Wednesday the next week? There is little benefit in the long term in training that way.
Yes this has to be number one. All runners, whether pro or recreational, have days when they don’t enjoy their training. In my experience if I have a day like this I will take two days off, hop on the bike, go to the gym,do some yoga or do very little training at all. The benefits are amazing because when you go back running you realise this is what I love and you’re usually revived to go again. Sometimes the best thing in the world is a break if you are someone that trains on a regular basis. I get that feeling of why am I not training or I haven’t trained in two whole days, am I getting unfit? This is a normal feeling and usually when I head back out on a run I suddenly have that passion for it again and I have no fatigue in the legs.
On your long runs knock back the speed, run comfortably and slowly and take in the surroundings, run the trails, forests, hills and mountains. Make this sport a lifestyle where you can get fit through having fun. Then during the week do a half hour speed session and another on your local hill and break yourself in half to get fitter and faster. This may not sound like enjoyment but you will enjoy the longer slower runs and the rest of life too if you are fit and healthy.
Yes hills are my number two! I love hills, you go up and up and can hardly breath and then you sprint down like a goat with a jaguar on it’s ass. Can’t beat them. Some have steps, some are long and undulating, some are stony and some grassy like ice. Most people hate them but once I train on hills, I see benefits. I have raced before on mountains on untrained legs when it came to the uphill and downhill and paid the price. You have to do hills to run races in the hills. It may sound simple but people think if they can run a marathon on the flat they will be fine in the mountains. The other angle to this is that those that want to run a marathon on the flat or the road can benefit from gaining strength and speed by running the hills.
On my usual week I hope to get two hill repeat session in during the week and then a long hilly trail run on the weekend. This is all life really gives in terms of time anyhow. Aside from this I will run a speed session and a tempo run on the road or trail midweek as well.
Hill Session 1
Pick a hill nearby, maybe about 2-4km from the house as a warmup jog. A short steep hill of no more than 200 metres in length. Start by running the hill as fast as you can, even if only walking pace. Then gradually add in a rep or two a week plus more speed and before long you will see results. I tend to run my short hill repeat workout early in the week, doing 5 to 10 repeats on the hill with 90 secs off between reps. You need to run up so that at the top you cannot breath or speak and after 90 seconds you run back down the hill as fast and controlled as you can. At the bottom take about 30 seconds break and then repeat. It’s mighty !!
Hill Session 2
Find a different hill to your early week session. This may be on a Thursday giving yourself a little bit of a break before the weekend, depending on how you feel.
This should be a longer more gradual hill and you will repeat the same session as above except that you will run a more controlled, race pace up and down the hill. If you use heart rate I would say about 80% is perfect. I have recently stopped using heartrate as I feel I can listen to my body more without it. It is very beneficial but not to me in my current training.
Hill Session 3
This is your day out on race like terrain. As a mountain, fell or ultrarunner you need to spend time in the mountains. Drive their and head out on the trails or up the side of your local mountain and have the craic ( as we say in Ireland) Make it a long one, a reasonably slow one and practice hiking uphill as well as running the more technical ground.
I won’t dwell on this but you do need to put mileage in the legs. Whether it is for a 5km or 200km event you need to know your abilities and strengths. I am a low enough mileage runner, only running 50km or thereabouts most weeks with exceptions to that rule but in general I vary my training too much to run any further. It works for me. It is about being confident in your own training and what I write here might be a guide to someone at some stage.
Possibly the most important of all in my opinion. You have to recover. If you don’t get the recovery the training is fruitless. Your muscles need this time to rebuild and it is an injury prevention method. Many people overlook sleep and in my view it is massive. I like to try sleep 8 hours a night and if you can get those few hours before midnight in all the better. I have started running more in the mornings of late but this means an early night. Otherwise I am running on tired legs and tired mind which is a recipe for disaster.
5. Hydration and Nutrition
Once again I repeat- “what works for you is best” However, I will throw in a few of my tips from experience over the last few years.
These ideas for training are pretty much the same as when racing. You need to use hydration and food in your training the same as you will on race day. It improves your systems ability to ingest what feels best.
Ask yourself- What do you normally eat?
Pre race nutrition and hydration for me is a daily life routine of good food. It is not about what you eat the day or the week before a race. Carb loading to me is complete waffle. I don’t want to throw a pile of pasta into my belly the night before a race after not touching pasta for a month. Don’t shock the system. Maybe eat a little bit more than you usually do, but of the same foods. Stick to as much protein and fat as you can and eat vegetables forever more.
I wont go into the types of foods here but will in a post in the upcoming days.
We are all going to be racing different distances at our own paces, however I have a few ideas that have worked well for me in recent times.
An example of this can be seen in my Transvulcania race post. The key to it all has been Tailwind. This fantastic product with some sugar, electrolytes and containing 200 calories can be both your food and drink for almost any distance. I will take two to three bottles containing Tailwind, as well as maybe 3 gels and then eat some fruit and jellies at aid stations as I feel I need them. The number one is Hydration during a race, with more sugar as you get towards the pointy end of the race for that last push.
Post training or racing it is mostly about protein and rehydration. Make sure to take on as much fluids as you can and get a protein shake or a good portion of protein in you food in as soon as you can. Remember the muscles need this to recover and you will be a lot sorer the following day if you are lazy with food and water post race.
6. Strength, cross training and the bike.
As runners these are all for injury prevention. I do some multisport racing so I like to get out on the bike a few times a week, however I think it is so beneficial to everyone to throw in a strength class or two or just spend a few hours in your week exercising in a different way to running. You will get stronger and the legs are getting a welcome break.
Your running form improves with a strong core and you can run faster for longer once all the muscle, especially in the hips, glutes and back are solid and flexible.