5 key training tips for Ultra Runners with GB Ultra Runner & Chartered Physiotherapist Jo Meek

GB Ultra Runner, Chartered Physiotherapist and MoveWell Advocate Jo Meek talks us through 5 key training tips for your Ultra Training. 




Jo has been running ultras at an International level since 2014.  Here are 5 key ultra-training tips that she has learnt along the way....


Pick a race that motivates YOU…. not your friends or your ego. You want to be inspired to train when life gets busy. You also want a reason to keep pushing in the race when it gets tough and knowing how much effort you put into the training is a huge factor;  'not only did I put many hours into training for this, I made day to day sacrifices and I’m paying for the experience, so giving up is not an option'.


Long runs

'The race is long but the long runs don’t need to be'. I learnt this from David Roche, US Ultra Running coach. He talks about the long days being a stress on the biomechanical and neuromuscular systems; as the runner fatigues, ground-contact time can increase and form can deteriorate which leads to inefficiencies despite maintaining the output and ultimately this creates an imbalance in stress levels for the body. The odd longer run can be useful if the runner hasn’t raced many ultras, it can build confidence in ability, practise fuelling and become routine in controlling the controllables (fuel, hydration, clothing, pack organisation and focus), learning to pace and get you used to the highs and lows of running for hours! But don’t over do them!


Back to Back long runs

When I started training for ultras, I did two long runs on consecutive days, this was because my first race was Marathon des Sables which is a stage race. The purpose of them was to prepare my legs for the fatigue of running beyond a marathon and get used to pacing myself. However, they don’t allow for recovery adaptations and for me this meant a few weeks later getting ill or injured. 

A far more optimal alternative is to incorporate some intensity in a long run. This can be done as 'progression runs', where you slowly increase the pace of the long run or perhaps run faster initially for a set period and then settle into an easy pace for the remainder.  This creates musculoskeletal stress and optimal adaptation afterwards as you rest/ recover. 


Speed is still essential

Speed training helps running economy; the relationship between oxygen consumption and running speed. Running fast on the flat correlates with running fast up hills and most ultra are off road and hilly. Also, maximal top end running economy has a mutual relationship with submaximal running economy, so over time, incorporating speed means improvement!  Working on speed on both flats and ups, will work in every direction. 


Make it specific

There are many ways to train. One of the successful and popular is the 80% easy and 20% harder intensity training method. 80% of your training time should be done at an easy effort (progressing towards steady on those good days) which establishes laying down some good solid foundations. One of these easy runs is the longer run and ideally should be done with specificity to your chosen goal, for example, running on trails if it’s a trail race. A lot of races are hilly and yet we don’t all live in the mountains so I use my treadmill to get those long ascents in; depending on the gradients of the course profile I may run or just uphill hike to be as specific as possible building confidence that I can achieve my goals.


Most importantly, enjoying setting those goals, training for them, recovering properly and achieving them!


See you out there : )

Find out more about Jo @therunningsquirrel 

See Jo for advice @ www.oceanphysio.com