I spoke to an old friend yesterday, and he told me that he had recently decided to enter the world of ultrarunning. For those who are unfamiliar, ultras are distances that exceed the marathon distance by up to four fold (and I am sure probably more). Undertaking such a task is a serious burden, and without the proper steps it is likely that an athlete can end up ill or injured provided the right steps aren’t taken.
Due to the nature of the ultramarathon, the relatively predictable inefficiencies that most runners pick up will be magnified. Most of the time you’ll see that ultra competitors tend to focus solely on running, and running long at the expense of running fast. If you look at this in terms of the Law of Repetitive Motion (I=NF/AR), you’ll begin to see that this can be a problem. In ultrarunning, there is an extremely high number of repetitions (N) at a low force (F), and an extremely low amplitude and almost no rest between each motion (A and R). What you get is a very high ratio between NF and AR…not good for preventing injury and increasing efficiency.
As such, it is an exceptionally good idea for these runners to begin to work like athletes and improve multiple fitness qualities. They need to spend a lot more time away from running to undertake strategies to improve strength, mobility, stability, tissue quality, and simply rest to help make the ratio of NF/AR as small as possible.
A few general tips:
1. Run faster. With an ultramarathoner, MaxV work is probably unwarranted, however, it is certainly a good idea from both a movement and performance standpoint to pick up the pace a few days a week. Things like timed intervals or even track reps are a great start.
2. Train indoors. No, I’m not talking about treadmills. I’m talking about the weight room. If you are a recreational ultrarunner, you’d be well off to match the time you spend running with the time you spend training mobility, strength, stability, etc in a 1 to 1 manner. With ultra people, we won’t lift quite as heavily as someone who races shorter distances as the requirement of strength is not as great. We will often approach 5RM work along with some higher 8-15 repetition lifts for connective tissue strength gains.
3. Eat well and eat a lot. One of the best ways to prevent injury is to ensure that your nutrient needs are met daily with high quality food. You should also consider getting an amphipod or other hydration belt and drink a carbohydrate and protein drink regularly during all of your training sessions. You’ll get unmatched benefits.
Cam, my friend, I hope this helps!