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  • Writer's pictureJack Lian

Low Volume Training for Ultra-Endurance Events

Some people react REALLY well to high volume training. Some do not. Very often, most do NOT react well to it largely due to the inability to recover from such high volume of training, which often result in injuries and overtraining. This is due to stressors in our daily lives, such as having to balance between work and family where there is little to zero tolerance for mistakes. These stressors inhibit us from training at our fullest capacity because our body cannot differentiate between mental and physical stress.

If you are reading this article, you may be facing the same issue – finding it tough to carve out enough time to train up ultra endurance events that last for 6-12 hours or even multiple days. Some might also struggle to just recover from all the volume work that you are doing. Fortunately, there is another way around it. I am NOT saying that volume work is BAD. It is a good to have – provided you have the luxury of time to train and recover, like professional athletes.

Many professional athletes can train on high volume because of their highly structured lifestyle. Their job is to train. Race day is payday. Their lives thus revolve around training and recovering to ensure that they peak on time for their races. In addition, the high volume of training is manageable to them as they took YEARS to build up to that level. BUT THAT IS NOT FOR US. With full time jobs and other commitments, training becomes number 3 on our priority list. As such, we need to TRAIN SMART and dedicate the remaining of our energy to the RIGHT type of training to induce the right adaptations that will prepare us sufficiently for our endurance races. So that we COMPLETE our goal, and still remain HEALTHY to fulfill our commitments

I personally had suffered from SOLELY training at high volume. The good thing is – there IS another way to train for ultra-endurance events, yet still have enough time for your job family and stay injury-free. 1. BACK TO BACK TRAINING SESSIONS Part of the requirements of ultra-endurance events is your ability to endure – both physically and mentally. Back to back training sessions prepare you to perform under fatigue, and builds the necessary endurance required for the event itself. Let’s say you are training for a 100km ultramarathon – you can try building up to a 30km training run on Saturday, followed by a 30km training run on Sunday. The beauty of breaking 60km over 2 days is: 1) It allows you to recover faster than performing the mileage all in 1 sitting and 2) allows you to experience running on fatigued legs on the second session. The key to training for endurance races is this:

To build up volume and still be able to recover fast enough. This allows you to get in volume FREQUENTLY to get your race-fitness level up as much as possible. Back to back training is a good choice because you can also get it in over the weekends! Friday late night-Saturday early morning or Saturday morning-Sunday morning combinations all work. You can choose to run while on fast to get greater adaptations in fat-burning capabilities, which spares your glycogen stores. This is an important adaptation in endurance training which reduces the probability of bonking. 2. STRENGTH TRAINING Probably the most underutilized training tool for endurance training. Strength training does not refer to just a few sets of push ups, planks and lunges after your speed workout. Strength training is about heavy kettlebell swings, turkish get ups, gymnastic ring complexes. If you are not strong enough to hold postural integrity, you will lose efficiency in your movement technique – be it rowing, running, swimming or cycling. This will lead to slower and compensatory movements, which will almost definitely lead to injuries.

Prioritize strength training – replace 2 sessions of your endurance work with strength work and watch your performance increase. You will get stronger, faster and grocery shopping will now feel SO MUCH easier. Not sure how to start? Drop us a message and we can help you with designing a customised strength training protocol that suit your needs.

3. FOAM ROLL AND MASSAGE Too many at times we neglect maintenance of our bodies. Do foam roll regularly; all the sitting in office tightens up the hamstrings and hip flexors, which can cause LOADS of issues (aches and pains). Try to get a massage at least once a fortnight, weekly is recommended. This will further mitigate occurrence of injuries and ensure continuity of training – something that we cannot afford to lose. 4. STAND MORE, WALK MORE

This is the secret to building up leg endurance for ultra-endurance events, especially ultramarathons. Think about it. If you can’t stand the duration, you will have problem running the duration. If you are used to sitting for most part of the day, chances are when you start to stand more, you are going to feel the stress on your lower back and calves. As such, build up your standing duration patiently. Adopt a standing work station if it is possible and build up your endurance on your feet. This is a ‘cheat code’ to building muscular endurance in your legs. Standing during the bus ride or train ride home is also a great way to get in time on the feet. Walk more too. Unless you are a professional or an advanced level ultra-endurance athlete, chances are you will be walking a fair bit on the course. If possible, walk home after work to get in more time on the feet. Walking utilises slightly different muscles from running. Many make the mistake of not training their ability to walk fast. I attribute part of my success in completing my 200 miles ultramarathon to the ability to walk fast. Aside from all that, both standing and walking gives you the ability to spend time on your feet without breaking into a sweat (or not much of it) almost anywhere!

So there you have it! These methods had served me well and they are what I teach my students. They are definitely worth a try, if you are really tight on time. Do give it a go and let me know if it works for you. If you have any questions on structuring your training program, feel free to reach out to me! Keep training hard and training smart!!

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