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This 20 week ultra running training plan is designed for individuals looking at improving their trail running performance or competing in their first 50km race. It’s for those who have some running background, are capable of handling back-to-back 25 mile weeks of easy aerobic running to start. The plan builds to a 50 mile week that includes one high intensity session.
The plan follows the proven model of three building weeks followed by a recovery week to allow your body to absorb the training that preceded it. It takes you through an 8 week base period to solidify both general functional strength and the aerobic base you will need to support the hard work in the later weeks. It then moves into a 4 week running specific strength period to boost your running power and muscular endurance on uphills. The meat of the program is a 6 week block of concentrated loading of the two principle components of any ultra distance trail run: Uphills and long distance. The final 2 weeks are a taper and rest to prepare you for a trail run or race of around 30 miles / 50 kilometers.
Like any well crafted training program this one will only achieve the desired results if it is administered properly. This means following the intensity, volume and recovery recommendations. It also means listening to your body and resting when you need it. The stress of everyday life will impact your ability to handle the training load and must be factored in the evaluation of your readiness to train. We highly recommend that anyone serious enough about their training to use a plan like this, get tested in lab to establish their personal heart rate training zones.
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Workout #1: Run
Planned Distance: 3 mi
We recommend having a Metabolic Efficiency Test done in a lab to determine your aerobic and anaerobic thresholds along with your fuel usage at various intensities as the gold standard for determining your metabolic response to exercise. Use the above mentioned thresholds as the anchors for all training intensities in this plan. If you choose not to do this test then follow the procedure below to come up with an estimate of the upper end of your aerobic zone. The first workout you find your Aerobic Threshold (AeT). Use one of the following protocols to determine the upper HR limit for your aerobic capacity building workouts. For more information on Aerobic Capacity and Aerobic Threshold see our book; Training for the New Alpinism.
1) AeT Test: If you have engaged in a regular low intensity aerobically bases training program for over 1 year then you will use the first test below to help zero in on your aerobic threshold heart rate. By regular we mean a structured program of training at least 4 days a week for extended periods of at least 30 minutes of continuous aerobic work each. AeT test: Walk, jog, or run on flat ground (or on a treadmill) easily for 10 minutes to warm up enough that you’re starting to break a sweat after 10 minutes. Then close your mouth and continue to increase the pace to the point where you can no longer breathe only through your nose. Back off and hold this pace for another 10 minutes. This will also correspond to the upper limit at which you can carry on a conversation without needing to catch your breath. Note what this intensity level feels like and especially note what your typical heart rate is at this intensity. This is your Aerobic Threshold (AeT) pace and HR. Read more about this outdoor or indoor test and about physiology of AeT here.
2)MAF (Maximal Aerobic Function) HR estimation: If you have not engaged in the type of aerobic training referred to above or have been involved in a training program utilizing regular bouts of high intensity training such as CrossFit, P90X, Tabata or other gym based interval protocol type workouts then use this formula to estimate the top of your aerobic zone. 180-age=MAF HR. From now on you should use which ever is the LOWER of these 2 HR values as the upper limit for ALL your aerobic training unless otherwise instructed in the workout info. This is the top of your ZONE 2. Read more about MAF estimation here.
Note: All aerobic base training for running should ideally be done on foot. Cycling and swimming, while great exercise, are not weight bearing and can serve as good recovery workouts. Running and hiking are much more specific to your sport where you’re on your feet for extended periods of time.
Workout #2: Day Off
The first 8 weeks of this program are to establish a solid base of aerobic fitness and functional strength to support the hard work to follow. You should be capable of handling several weeks of 20-25 miles at an easy aerobic pace before undertaking this plan
Workout #3: Strength
This simple strength workout use mainly body weight exercises and focuses on single leg stability. We will provide you a video of these exercises upon purchase of this plan. Once familiar with the exercises go through this complete workout. as you gain strength add weight in the form of holding dumbbells or adding a weight vest.
10x Trunk flex/rotate complex. 10x Calf rocker. 10x leg swing. 10x Jumping jack. 10x Diag Hops. 3x (20sec run in place+ 10sec High knee run)
Workout: 3x Through circuit. 15sec rest btwn exercises 1min rest per circuit:
4x Compass Points (4x 4 touches each leg) 20x Supine leg raise 10x Lunge (each leg) 10x Windshield Wiper 10x Single leg Deadlift (each leg) 10 x Saw plank 10x Split Jump Squat (each leg)
1min rest then repeat
Gluteus Med exercises: Prone gluteus med activation 4x max duration holds. Hip Hitch 4x 15 reps each leg Knee Stability with Band 4x 15 reps each leg
Cool down static stretches; Calf, Hamstring and Hip
Workout #4: Run
Planned Distance: 6 mi
Complete full run @ 80-100% of Aerobic Threshold HR.
Workout #5: Run
Planned Distance: 4 mi
Complete full run at 70-80% of Aerobic Threshold HR.
Photo Credit: Fred Marmsater.
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