How do you prepare for a strong ultra workout in the outdoors?

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Ultra runners spend anywhere from six months to a year preparing for destination events that can take days to complete. The routes can include significant hills, elevations, and adverse terrain, and participants often employ a crew to help set the pace and support them during the race. These elements of teamwork and the adventures involved may be why ultra marathons have gained popularity. While ultra training is not easy, it is accessible to anyone with the time and desire.

Prepare your body

One of the main reasons runners get injured is because they try to increase their training volume and running speed at a pace that their body can’t handle. The initial improvement in aerobic fitness is often biochemical in nature and therefore can happen quite quickly, whereas changes in the physical structure of muscles, ligaments, tendons and bones is a much more time consuming process.

A good example of this development is when you can work up to a long run or a tempo run at 8 minutes per kilometer (or whatever your pace is). However, your hips may not be strong enough to handle the stress of the pace or length of the run, resulting in that part of your body being inflamed the next day.

To train for an ultra race, which can be two or three times the distance of a marathon, you will need to increase your training volume. Therefore, it is very important that you take the time to prepare your body (muscles, tendons and ligaments) to handle the increased training demands.

To address this, you should start with a strength training routine that includes a lot of core work (core refers to the hips, glutes, lower back and abdomen) so you can isolate and strengthen weak areas. Studies have shown that hip and trunk strength correlate strongly with running injuries. By strengthening your core, you can develop core running muscle strength to meet increased training demands. You can also try a cross bike.

Start with four to six weeks of strengthening. After that, you will develop the necessary strength to safely increase your mileage and incorporate the long runs necessary for ultra distance training. During this period, you should maintain the same training load and intensity that you normally do. Of course, if you have the time, it is a good idea to continue strength training after the initial 4-6 weeks.

In addition, you need the right footwear, such as the Salewa brand, and a diet that you can choose individually at

Increase your mileage

Now that you have your core developed, the next step is to methodically develop your mileage to prepare your legs to run for longer and longer periods of time. But how should you approach this?

Most running books say that you shouldn’t increase your mileage by more than ten percent in any given week. Unfortunately, science does not support that the ten percent rule reduces the risk of injury.

In 2007, a group of researchers decided to test the effectiveness of the ten percent rule. The researchers tested 532 novice runners training for a local 4-mile (about 6.5 km) race, assigning half of the runners to a training program following the 10 percent rule and the other half to a more intense training regimen. Each runner went through the same warm-up process, and the overall training structure was the same – minus the training volumes. The results? Both groups had the same injury rate – about 1 in 5 runners.

It’s better to follow the “3 weeks up, 1 week down” philosophy. That way, you slowly increase your mileage for three weeks, then take a step back and bring your total mileage back to the number from week one in week four. For example, the mileage total might look like this: 50, 55, 60, 50, 60, 65, 70, 60, until you build up the maximum mileage you want to maintain.

You don’t have to follow the formula quoted exactly. This is just one example of how you can structure accumulated mileage in a unique way. Some runners respond well to weekly dips every five weeks, and some need them every three weeks to stay healthy and avoid injury.

Featured photo: Freepik

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