Going the Distance: Prioritizing Workouts for Ultramarathon Success
Going the Distance: Prioritizing Workouts for Ultramarathon Success

Conquering the Distance: Prioritizing Workouts for Ultramarathon Success

Ultramarathons, pushing beyond the traditional marathon distance, test the limits of physical and mental endurance. Completing one requires meticulous training, and prioritizing the right workouts is crucial for success. This article delves into the key elements of an effective ultramarathon training program, helping you navigate the diverse workouts and prioritize them for optimal race preparation.

The Cornerstones of Ultra Training:

  1. Endurance Runs: The bedrock of ultra training, long runs progressively build your aerobic base and prepare your body for extended periods on your feet. Start with shorter distances and gradually increase them, aiming for a peak long run several weeks before the race, typically around the targeted ultramarathon distance or slightly shorter. Consistency is key, aiming for at least 2-3 long runs per month.

  2. Strength Training: Often overlooked, strength training plays a vital role in injury prevention, improved efficiency, and power on hills. Focus on multi-joint exercises targeting major muscle groups like legs, core, and upper body. Utilize bodyweight exercises, free weights, or resistance bands, aiming for 2-3 sessions per week.

  3. Speedwork: While not the primary focus, incorporating speedwork sessions improves running economy and helps maintain faster paces for shorter sections within the ultra. Interval training, tempo runs, and hill repeats are effective options. Start with manageable durations and intensities, gradually increasing them as your fitness progresses.

  4. Recovery: Don't underestimate the importance of recovery. Schedule rest days to allow your body to adapt to the training stress and prevent injuries. Active recovery activities like yoga, swimming, or easy walks can aid in muscle recovery and maintain blood flow.

Prioritization Strategies:

Now, let's explore how to prioritize these workouts:

Early Training Phase (Months 3-5):

  • Focus: Building a strong aerobic base.
  • Priority: Long runs take center stage, gradually increasing in distance and duration.
  • Strength training: Introduce 1-2 sessions per week, focusing on foundational exercises with moderate intensity.
  • Speedwork: Can be included sparingly, focusing on maintaining basic speed with short intervals.

Mid Training Phase (Months 2-4):

  • Focus: Refining endurance and introducing higher intensity.
  • Priority: Maintain consistent long runs, potentially adding one additional shorter long run per week.
  • Strength training: Increase frequency to 2-3 sessions per week, gradually increasing weight or difficulty.
  • Speedwork: Introduce more variety with tempo runs, hill repeats, and longer intervals, progressively increasing duration and intensity.

Late Training Phase (Months 1-2):

  • Focus: Maintaining fitness, sharpening race pace, and tapering.
  • Priority: Reduce long run distance slightly, focusing on maintaining race pace for shorter segments.
  • Strength training: Maintain frequency and intensity, ensuring proper form to avoid injuries.
  • Speedwork: Reduce frequency and intensity, focusing on race-specific pace simulations and short, sharp intervals.

Additional Considerations:

  • Individual Needs: Adapt the plan based on your experience, strengths, and weaknesses. Consult a coach or qualified professional for personalized guidance.
  • Terrain Specificity: Train on similar terrain to the race, especially if it involves significant hills or technical sections.
  • Listen to your body: Adjust training based on how you feel. Don't push through pain or excessive fatigue, as it can lead to injuries.

Beyond the Workouts:

Remember, successful ultra training extends beyond just the workouts.

  • Nutrition: Fuel your body adequately with a balanced diet rich in carbohydrates, protein, and healthy fats. Experiment with race-day nutrition strategies during training runs.
  • Hydration: Stay adequately hydrated throughout the day, especially during and after training runs.
  • Sleep: Prioritize quality sleep for optimal recovery and mental focus.
  • Mental Preparation: Develop mental strategies to cope with the challenges and potential setbacks during training and the race itself.


Completing an ultramarathon requires dedication, perseverance, and a well-structured training plan. By prioritizing the right workouts at different stages of your training and incorporating essential recovery practices, you can increase your chances of reaching the finish line. Remember, consistency, smart training, and listening to your body are key ingredients for your ultramarathon success.