Multi-stage ultra-endurance events are becoming more and more popular. These events place an enormous psychological and physiological demand on your body and really push you to the limit. Here are some quick tips if you’re thinking about tackling an event next year.
Tip 1 – take your time and plan. I really recommend preparing for any multi-stage event a year in advance. That way, you’ll have plenty of time to build your base fitness gradually, rest and adapt to the increasing training load. Try to ensure you take a cyclical approach to your training. As an example, you could work on a four-week cycle. This means that training volumes/intensity gradually increase for the first three weeks (i.e. medium, medium, high) before a recovery phase in the fourth week. Try to adopt a polarised approach to your training where approx. 80% should be at a low to medium intensity with the remaining 20% at a higher intensity. These higher intensity training sessions would include interval sessions and tempo (threshold) sessions. Finally, add in some other short term ‘stepping stone’ goals to assess training progress and to keep you motivated.
Tip 2 – focus on recovery. Recovery should be the ‘bedrock’ of your training programme. Don’t be tempted to skip a rest day. If training continues for too long in a fatigued state, your body will be subjected to high levels of training stress which will lead to further fatigue, overreaching (short term excessive training), possible over-training and under-performance. Structure your training to ensure you have enough recovery periods in order to allow your body to adapt. It should be enough to dissipate fatigue and promote adaptation but not result in detraining. This process of structuring your training is called periodisation. It needs to be short, medium and long-term as well as being proportional to your training load. As an example, intense exercise often results in delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) which is characterised by disruption to muscle function at a cellular level. Without enough recovery there may be a negative impact on a subsequent training session due to the reduced number of functioning motor unit within the muscle. This could also have an impact on technique and economy of movement and ultimately affect your performance during that training session.
Tip 3 – go off piste. It’s worth trying additional recovery strategies to compliment your rest and recovery periods. Such strategies may include cold water immersion, massage, stretching, compression garments, music and antioxidant supplementation. Functional strengthening like core work, yoga and pilates should also be incorporated into your training plan. Adding these strength training sessions to your workout routine two or three times a week will be very helpful when training for multi-stage events.
Tip 4 – get used to the back-to-back training sessions. After time, begin to build in some back-to-back training sessions. These types of training sessions help mimic the cumulative fatigue you’ll experience during the event. They also help provide a psychological boost, help improve mental toughness and give you confidence that you can cope with the distances.
Tip 5 – where possible, replicate your race conditions. This will help your body adapt to the stress of the terrain you’ll be experiencing. Your ability to resist fatigue will be crucial. Fatigue resistance is developed in part by training at or just below your lactate threshold. When you have time on your side (tip 1), this exposure to similar race terrain can be built up gradually. I’m certainly not advocating jumping straight in at the deep end – in fact, this will cause more problems and you’ll probably end up causing an injury. Most terrains can be replicated to some degree, whether outdoors or indoors on a treadmill/bike. In addition, you can also try and replicate the physiological stress the terrain may impose on you – this may involve training in hotter/colder conditions, training with a back-pack, water pouch etc. Aim to introduce these early and gradually so your body can adapt.
Final tip – fuel for the road. Getting the most out of every training session is important and so it’s a good idea to pay close attention to your nutrition. When training and racing, eating a decent breakfast is important to ensure you’re fuelled and ready to go. If your nutritional requirements are not met, then a training session or race will become very challenging! It’s a good idea to use your training sessions to experiment with your nutrition. This will help you determine your tolerance to certain foods and what works best for you. Focusing on your protein and carbohydrate intake after each training session and race is also important.
Need help or advice?
If you’re planning on taking part in a multi-stage event next year or have any training related questions then feel free to contact me. You are more than welcome to make use of my Facebook page for training tips and updates https://www.facebook.com/puresportsperf/ or Twitter @PUREsportsperf - alternatively, if you want more specific, bespoke training advice then you can contact me by email: email@example.com