More runners than ever before are switching up from Marathons to Ultra Marathons, indicated by the number of events now available to enter across the world, more than tripling over the last 10 years.
One common mistake made by Marathon runners when switching distance is to purely focus on increasing their mileage. Of course a runner needs to increase mileage to tackle a 50+ mile race, but first and foremost there needs to be a focus on building a physical structure that will withstand the stresses such distances put on the body. Improvements in aerobic conditioning can be relatively quick, whereas physical structure, such as muscles, ligaments, tendons and bones are going to take much longer to prepare so need to be tackled first.
Four to six weeks of focusing on upper body and core gives a runner a good basis to start putting in the longer training runs needed during the build up. Core will mean working on Hips, Glutes, Abs and lower back - all those areas that are so important to stay strong and keep form in the later part of Ultra’s. The more you can use your body to propel you, the bigger load you take off your legs.
Balance work is also important when considering Strength training. You’ll be working all the smaller muscles that you don’t tend to on an average run. When you’re off road and 50 miles into a race you’ll be pleased you spent some time on that Balance Board!
Once you are past your initial four to six weeks of strength training, try to maintain 30 minutes a couple of times each week, preferably on the days you’re not running and if that’s unavoidable, at least train before your run to avoid being tired and risk injury.
Personally, making time for strength training has made a marked difference to my running life; I’ve recovered quicker from Ultra’s, stayed injury free and felt ten times stronger throughout the whole race and in particular the later stages.
If your running 80+ miles per week, Strength Training is a must.
Gyles is a REPS Qualified Personal Trainer and Ultra Marathon Runner
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