At Ultra Training Club it is one of our core beliefs – pun intended – that strength and conditioning training is key to building resilience you will need, both physically and mentally, to meet your ultra running goals. Running often on mixed terrain requires strength, and the stronger you are, especially in the core, the longer you can maintain good form during the course of an event. This is a critical success factor – once you start bending over, sagging in the middle, as the miles progress, you vastly increase the chance of developing niggles and injuries which will ultimately stop you in your tracks and prevent you from finishing.
By contrast if you are strong and can maintain an upright position throughout, and you believe you are strong, your chances of getting to the line increase significantly.
Andy Wilkinson is a personal trainer who lives and breathes core strength – here are Andy’s top tips for developing a strong core and training well… the tips are as applicable to an ultramarathon training plan as they are to building a strong core.
Andy believes 75-85% of the results you achieve are down to the food you eat. Andy focuses on eating good, natural food that supports his exercise routine, and that this is more effective than an additional 4 hours of training a week. Andy has learned what his body needs over the years – he avoids supplements like protein shakes or bars, and instead eats natural superfoods like hemp seeds, and focusses on portion control.
If you are being trained by Andy, almost the first words out of his mouth are “where is your water bottle…?”. Water is the key fuel our bodies cannot do without and the benefits of your training will be steadily eroded away if you do not consume enough water. There are plenty of apps available to prompt you if you need reminders (I do! or try one of our tiny habits…)
Andy generally weight trains three times per week for no more than an hour. On top of that, in his own words, “I might enjoy a game of tennis or racquetball with a friend too but that it’s it really. I find people sometimes train too much and get injured or don’t see the results they want. The body needs time to repair and recover afterwards and I make sure to have at least a day’s rest between workouts.” This is a key lesson for aspiring ultrarunners – do you need more junk miles or do you need a day to recover and let your body reap the benefits of the hard session you did yesterday?
Andy maintains his motivation with a mantra he repeats to himself every morning when he wakes up, and every evening before bed. This is how Andy builds and maintains his mental resilience to maintain his forward progress. He repeats his goals to himself as part of the mantra, adding the phrase “my best is yet to come”.
Andy cites hanging leg raises as his favourite core exercise. If you’ve read our post on the Scafell Sky Race you will know I could have done with wrapping a few of those into my routine. Here’s some highlights of more advanced core and leg strengthening exercises from Andy’s Instagram feed, where you will find dozens of suggestions for core strengthening exercises. Also below you will see our quick reference core training guide for download, featuring 5 simple exercises.