Monday, June 14, 2010

Ultramarathon training – but I just don’t have the time

It’s no secret that most of us are time poor these days with commitments to work and families. The sport of Ultrarunning is not only time consuming to compete in, but much more so to train for. We all have the same 24 hours in each day and 7 days in a week to fit all that our hectic lifestyles demand.  Unless you are training to perform at an elite level though it is not necessary to forego sleep to fit it all in to that limited time window.

It all comes down to priorities and time management.  If training for an ultra is not a priority for you, then it is unlikely you will elect to do a training session over a relaxing evening in front of the TV, or preparing for an important business meeting. The challenge arises because we feel the need to pigeon hole our time for specific activities, such that only time set aside for training, is actually of training benefit.  The secret is to multi-task, and this is something even a man can do (!) – I am living proof.
Even though we train for events lasting many, many hours, we can still benefit from activities which only last for a few minutes. Now I am not suggesting that you can cancel all your long training runs, and the base fitness you need to complete an ultra. It is how you use all your available time that will dictate how much time you need to dedicate to specific focused training activities.

You need to develop a mindset where you are subconsciously thinking “How can what I am doing now be adapted to benefit my training?”

Here are some good examples of things you could do to get a training benefit, whilst engaged in other activities.

1) One that I have used to good effect is running to and from work.  I found that the total travel time was the similar by either method, but felt better at the start of the day when I run in. If you live too far away to run to work, perhaps cycling could be an option, or you could run part of the journey and use public transport for the remainder. This idea was a massive benefit to building my base fitness, especially when we moved offices and my run in changed from 5km to 17km each way! It becomes part of the routine, without eating into valuable family time.

2) Whilst watching TV consider performing core strength exercises and stretches.  Get used to doing a few push ups or trunk curls, leg raises or side planks or any other stationary exercises.  I bought myself a “Theraband” which I use in the lounge room for hip, knee and ankle exercises. It comes to a point where you can decide if you are exercising whilst watching the TV vice versa.

3) Through a course of physiotherapy I was given specific exercises to improve my posture and running form.  These included keeping my torso upright (using core muscles) and employing my gluteal muscles when walking. So when walking have an awareness of your posture and what muscles you are using.  When people aren’t watching just hold your butt and make sure that you are using the biggest muscles in your body to propel you forward.

4) Whilst standing such as waiting for a bus, there is a great variety of exercises you can perform.  Simple controlled calf raises are a great way to build strength and endurance for the hills. Try standing with slightly bended knees to engage the quadriceps.  Practice tensing the gluteals to improve your awareness of them triggering so that you know you are using them whilst running. Try an adapted version of the Walt Reynolds ITB Special as detailed in my previous post. Stand on one leg and move your body mass around to get the muscles and connective tissue in your ankles firing and strengthening.

Many of these exercises you can perform while stationary will greatly improve your proprioreception which will help improve your running form and prevent or reduce the severity of injuries.

5) Take the stairs, leave the car at home, play with your kids outside – you may even inspire them to get away from the computer and put on their trainers without an argument!

6) Rake the garden manually rather than with a leaf blower. Not only will you get a workout for free, you’ll also be reducing your carbon footprint.


The list goes on, but I’m sure you can see the general concept.  It just takes some discipline to make these sorts of activities part of your normal routine, and that in itself is good mental training.

You can of course flip this entire concept on your head and incorporate other activities into you training.  I use the time to occupy my mind problem solving, and am looking to get an MP3 recorder so that I can write my blogs whilst out on the trails.

The way in which you can involve your training with your normal life is only limited by your imagination.  I’ve even taken to wearing ankle weights around the house, I keep golf balls under my desk to massage my feet whilst working, and stand on a balance board on one leg whilst cooking at the barbeque!

You may have noticed that I have not posted any training activity for the past few days and this is because I have been busy working on putting up over 400metres of fencing. Apart from the fact that it has taken up all the daylight hours, it has been a great physical workout, so haven’t felt the need to do anything extra. I cycle to the place where I’m doing this work also, which is a good example of what I have described above. I will need to get out and hit the trails in the coming week though, just to keep the legs turning over.

Happy running

Andy

“Obstacles are what you see when you take your eyes off the goal.” – Luis Escobar