So, you have a few HMs and FMs under your belt. You are now looking for a different kind of challenge; something that will require you to focus not as much on speed, but on endurance, mental preparation and clocking up some serious miles. Graduating to an ultramarathon calls for a reassessment of your running goals and training regimen.
Here are some tips to scientifically train for your first ultramarathon.
1) Run Back to Back
Your regular training regimen probably included one long run at the weekend. However, training for an ultra-marathon necessitates that you get some miles under your belt. You are already training for longer distances for an ultra, but you also need to incorporate one ‘back to back’ running session split between two days. For instance, if your regular long run was 20kms on Saturday, you need to graduate to doing 20kms on Saturday and 15kms the next day. This will train your body for longer distances, increase your weekly mileage and help you develop muscle memory.
2) The 75% Rule
Keep the 75% rule in mind. If you intend on running 75 kms in 11 hours on race day, you need to set aside a week where you train to run for up to 8.5 hours. This will prepare your body for the shock of training for several hours at a stretch, and also acclimatize you to running on a tired body. This training can consist of hill runs, tempo runs and cross training to ensure that you are engaging a variety of muscles over the course of one training session and help you build your overall fitness for the big day.
3) Cross Train
Cross training ensures that your hamstrings, quads and your core are targeted by specific exercises. These muscles don’t just need to be trained; they need to be adequately trained in relation to each other to avoid injuries. Swimming is great for a head to toe workout, but is especially effective to build your upper body strength. Swimming can also act as a respite if you are nursing a running related injury, and can help the injured area to get a break and heal. Like swimming, cycling is also a non-load bearing activity, while still giving you an excellent aerobic workout. You can also consider pilates, stair climbing and weight lifting. Just make sure that you take the adequate care choosing the right technique and gear for your alternative activity, no matter which one you use.
4) Split Your Month into Blocks
When planning your monthly training regimen, split your month into weekly training blocks. Progressively increase your mileage and intensity in the first 3 weeks and let the 4th week be your recovery week. Progressive overload allows your body to adapt in anticipation of the next challenge and reduces the chance of injury. A progressive plan also makes you focus on the mental preparation you need to push your limits, week after week.
We cannot emphasize on this one strongly enough. After all the scientific training, nutrition and pacing plans, your ultramarathon effort will come down to mind over matter. After running for punishing distances you have never attempted before, there might be a point where your body feels like it just can’t go any further. At such a juncture, an adequately trained mind can take over, and take you all the way to the finish.
While training, visualize the finish. Visualize the sweet taste of accomplishment that will make all the pain and sacrifice worth it. Many of India’s ultras are held in breathtaking locales. While training, visualize those beautiful environs. Imagine the sensation of being able to experience a wonderful trail in a way that few others are able to. Even for a punishing trail, don’t make it Nature vs. You. Visualize your body being in harmony with your surroundings. Savor the run.
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