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Less Run, More Fun? An Unconventional Approach to Ultra-Marathon Preparation

The secret behind running 175km non-stop on less than 40km of weekly training 👀

When most people envision preparing for an ultra-marathon, they typically picture grueling, long-distance runs multiple times a week. I've discovered that a combination of walking, low-impact cross-training, and strength-building exercises, often done barefoot or in minimalist shoes, can be as effective as traditional running-based ultra-marathon preparation.

1. The Power of Walking 🚶

One of the striking features of my unconventional training regimen was a resolute dedication to walking. Clocking an average of 15,000 to 20,000 steps each day, walking was more than just a casual pastime; it was a pillar of my strategy. My high-volume walking wasn't limited to picturesque hikes but rather it infiltrated every facet of my daily life. Whether it was the mundane commute to work or running errands around town, I seized every opportunity to opt for foot-powered transportation. A simple philosophy guided my approach: always walk if you can. And if you can’t, try to walk anyway.

What was the purpose of this high-volume, pedestrian lifestyle? To subtly accustom my legs to the demands of long-term movement while simultaneously building my endurance in a way that was kind to my body.

2. Focus on Low-Impact 🪶

For my unconventional training, I focused on low-impact workouts, especially prolonged sessions on the stairmaster and incline treadmill. These routines not only provided a break for my joints and tendons but also allowed for intense, extended training without overburdening my lower body. Think of a workout where you can push your limits, engage your muscles effectively, yet avoid the typical strain on joints and tendons that usually comes with high-intensity training.

3. Cross-Training & Heart-Rate 🫀

For an urban athlete like me, the routine of daily runs can risk becoming boring (I don't like running in the city). To combat this, I diversified my cardio workouts, drawing from various fitness disciplines such as CrossFit and Hyrox.

Rather than focusing solely on distance, I prioritized monitoring my heart rate. I calibrated my sessions based on my HR, ranging from low to high intensity, to gauge the effectiveness of each workout. With cutting-edge tools from Garmin and Strava, I tracked my exertion levels, ensuring that my cardiovascular training was not only consistent but also effective for endurance building.

4. Strength Improves Endurance 🏋️‍♀️

Drawing inspiration from Ross Edgley's philosophy, I adopted an approach that showcased strength and stamina as two sides of the same coin. Consider strength training as your armour in the battle against fatigue and injury. The stronger you are, the more efficiently you can withstand the rigours of ultra-running, improving resilience and performance in the long run. I incorporated functional exercises to boost my overall muscular strength, and designed specific routines that catered to the unique challenges of ultra-running, bridging the divide between general fitness and specialized race conditioning.

Moreover, ultra-running isn't solely about legs; it's a full-body endeavor. Whether it involves wearing a running vest or using poles for extended periods, the upper body plays a crucial role, underscoring the importance of comprehensive strength training.

5. Barefoot Training 🦶

Most of these sessions were undertaken barefoot. Eschewing shoes, I discovered, enhanced the efficiency of my workouts substantially, fortifying my lower body in many ways, and refining my overall biomechanics:

  • Feet: The direct and repeated foot-to-ground interactions steadily toughen and condition your feet, preparing them for the extensive impacts experienced in an ultra-marathon.

  • Ankles: Unrestricted by shoes, your ankles become more actively involved in every step, bolstering their stability and robustness.

  • Calves: Without the cushioned support of shoe soles, your calves step in to absorb the impact and protect your knees from the shock. They naturally become more powerful.

  • Bio-Mechanic: This proper lower-body alignment then travels upwards, leading to better posture and positioning of the hips and spine. Over time, this holistic correction leads to reduced strain on joints and muscles, improved balance, and an overall enhancement in movement efficiency and injury prevention.

  • Balance & Proprioception: Training barefoot significantly heighten your sense of balance, improving the ability to adjust to uneven terrains and sudden shifts in direction. Without the barrier of shoes, proprioceptive awareness — the body's ability to sense its position in space — is sharpened.


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