Hello there! It’s your friendly neighborhood ultra runner, Dominic Grossman, here to give you a few tips on how to prepare for your big athletic goal this summer. There’s something special about the days getting longer and the weather inviting you outdoors that makes it all too natural to pursue something adventurous. It doesn’t matter whether you’re attempting your first 5k, a long backcountry hike, or a 100 mile race,success is always related to thorough preparation.
In 2015, I trained to compete in the Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc, a single 104-mile race around the Alps that featured over 66,000 feet of elevation change. Training for something that massive required a blend of organization, determination, patience, and lots of good food. There were setbacks and mistakes, but in the end, I put in enough work to allow me to finish near the very top of the 2,400 person field and earn the coveted finisher’s vest (and complimentary exhausted/sore/crushed body). Though the race was very long, it was a small fraction of miles compared to the training I put in for months before the race. Here’s my check list for ensuring you’re doing enough to have a shot to accomplish your goal event:
Plan out a schedule.
If you’re not a veteran of the event you’re attempting to complete, talk to coaches or people that have done the event and ask them key questions like “What did you wish you did more of in training? What did you do too much of? What would you recommend I do each week/month?” Whether you have the experience to build your own or have consulted another runner or coach, a good schedule should include the same key concepts. Build weeks, recovery weeks, cross training, and event-specific workouts combine to make complete, well-rounded training blocks, such as the one below:
As you can see, I’ve planned out initial build weeks with modest mileage, key workouts, a cross training regimen, and even sleep tracking! The simple truth is that everything you do or don’t do adds up to fitness, and if you want to be ready to go, you have to push your body and let it recover in a natural rhythm, hence the rest days, sleep tracking, and the recovery week of no workouts.
Account for life stressors, and adjust accordingly.
The beauty of a schedule is that it gives you a road map to get to that next level of fitness. However, there’s always traffic, detours, and set backs in life that keep you from progressing smoothly. If your work schedule gets out of hand, it’s an unavoidable setback that will make training much more difficult. You’ll have to prioritize certain workouts and go with less sleep occasionally, but you’ll also have to skip some training to get enough sleep so that you aren’t brain dead at work. The key is not to always skip one type of training (interval/core strength/stretching/endurance).
Visualization is key.
Whether its meditation sessions or something as simple as setting a picture of the race course as the background of your computer or smartphone background, never underestimate the value of this tool. For me, the image of what I will be able to do if I stick to my training is a powerful motivation. Achieving a certain distance by a certain time of day means that you’re on schedule, and that type of focused meditation can be the difference in you getting training in on a tough day. I keep and hang panoramas of vistas along races courses I do to remind myself of the beautiful experience I am chasing, and allow myself to indulge in daily doses of “healthy daydreaming”.
Dial in your nutrition, both in training and daily life.
I mentioned that it took a lot of good food to sustain training for UTMB, and I wasn’t kidding! I’ve had training cycles that wore me out and zapped my energy due to excessive dependence on simple carbs and sugars. In general, balanced plant-based nutrition does ensure that you’re getting nutrients critical for regulating adrenal function, repairing tissue, and sustaining growth. What does that mean? It means if you’re eating a variety of superfoods that contain adequate amounts of protein, fat, and carbs, you aren’t depriving your body of any of these important nutrients.There are many divergent diets out there that do work, but after running for 16 years, I can state confidently that being deficient in any nutrient is completely unnecessary! A simple solution when I’m in a pinch is a ProBar that is packed with healthy fats, nutritious proteins, critical omega fatty acids, and clean carbs.
Enjoy the ride with confidence.
The bottom line to all this struggle and hustle is to be happy and to enjoy the challenge of your event. When it comes time to taper off activity and prepare for your big day, have faith in your training (although all the extra rest does make the mind wander) and be confident in your abilities. In the words of my late father “don’t worry, you’re going to do fine.”
Dominic Grossman is an Ultra Runner from California. For more stories and training tips, check out his blog.