The Positive Mindset behind Ultrarunning
“You don’t have to move fast but you do have to keep moving.”This is the mantra I try to run by every time I head out on my longer runs, which can be anything up to seven or eight hours. In the world of ultrarunning speed is relatively unimportant unless you are racing to win, the more important factors such as maintaining an even pace, nutrition and keeping a positive mindset make it a true test of mind, body and spirit.
The more a person runs the more he gets to know how his body performs and reacts to distance. Developing aerobic fitness is actually a relatively simple process; repetition of long runs, tempo runs and strength / core training (among a few other things) is basically all that you need to enforce alongside a helping of motivation and a splash of positive mindset. It is the challenge of gradually increasing the mileage whilst remaining injury free that can elude some runners, but a few key points can make this a lot more successful: (i) nutrition, (ii) getting distance into your legs, (iii) mind and soul!
Nutrition is the basis of good health and there simply is no way around having a healthy, balanced diet. Human DNA is nearly 99% identical to chimpanzees but yet our diets are often polar opposites. For optimal health and improved running we need to try and copy their diet and eating habits:
1. ORGANIC PLANTS, FRUITS and VEGETABLES. Organic plants, fruits and vegetables should make up around 50-60% of your diet.
2. RAW, SPROUTED or FERMENTED. Raw, fermented or sprouted foods such as nuts, sprouts, legumes etc.
3. LESS MEAT. Meat should comprises less than 5% of your total food intake.
4. FRONT LOAD YOUR DAY WITH NUTRITION. A big breakfast, good sized lunch followed by a smaller dinner eaten early in the evening. All chimpanzees generally stop eating around 4pm all over the world, there really is no need to be eating at 9pm and the same can be said for us. A well trained runner should have enough fuel and glycogen supplies for close to three hours of running, and that is before a meal.
5. SUPPLEMENTS. Supplements should be natural and organic where possible. Spirulina, Omega 3’s and a natural, non-synthetic vitamin/antioxidant/mineral are the essentials. Hopefully now you can see there are big benefits for runners to lean towards a near-vegetarian diet and before anybody asks no, chimpanzees do not drink Coke.
Getting Distance into Your Legs
One of the most important traits for running success is consistency. You need to be able to work up to running at least five times a week, and if your body can handle it then six can sometimes be even better. Smart training is always going to be more beneficial than just trying to hit numbers, so you need to listen to your body. It’s a good idea to have an easier week one week in every month. Don’t be tempted to boost your mileage up by crazy amounts as this can often result in injury, a good rule to stick to is increases in distance of no more than 10% per week. A minimum of one long run every week for less experienced runners, whereas marathoners and ultrarunners can benefit greatly from back-to-back long runs. This instils both greater confidence and muscular strength and endurance through the lower body.
Mind and Soul
Apart from injury or some sort of catastrophic problem most people can reach the finish line of a half marathon (and usually in pretty good shape too). Marathons also usually yield surprisingly high numbers of finishers considering the toughness of the event and that many are often first time racers. But ultramarathons? Well let’s just say you have to have more than just strong legs and a good set of lungs.
What it is that keeps you moving forward when your body is struggling to stay upright? How many people can still smile after falling over, throwing up and battling cramp for a few hours? What possesses someone to try and run 100 miles in a day?
I would say that out of all the varying types of runners, the ultra crowd are the ones that are most in touch with their mind and soul. We have to be or else we probably wouldn’t get to the finish line. There’s something almost cathartic about running inconceivable distances; the head becomes completely clear and free of our daily stresses and we can connect innately with the nature we are immersed with. Where the body starts to fail the mind can will it on, pulling us up mountains and down muddy trails when it really shouldn’t be capable of much more than collapsing in a heap. We get used to people telling us that “why would you want to do that” or “running is bad for your knees”. Plain and simple, don’t listen to them! It doesn’t make any sense to me to take advice from an overweight, non-exercising 40-something year old that what I’m doing is in some way bad for me. I’ll continue to take that risk thank you very much. How about we just continue with our long runs, early nights to bed and large fruit and vegetable intake and you can head back to the couch to catch up on your television, no offence of course. Oh, and as an interesting side note runners generally have fewer knee and joint problems than non-runners, the continuous movement and involvement of the ligaments and fibres protect our knees not hurt them.
Basic Ultrarunning Overview
Running + Good Nutrition + Recovery and Sleep
Health, Longevity and a Calmer more Productive Mind!
James Styler, born in the United Kingdom, is now a Personal Trainer and Triathlon Coach in ChristChurch, New Zealand with over ten years hands-on experience with fitness and health. James also writes for VO2max magazine, writing the "Ask The Trainer' column and is a Registered Exercise Professional. James was the 2004 U100kg New Zealand Powerlifting Champion, finished 15th in the Open Men St James 69km Ultramarathon, has completed 7 Marathons and 30 Half Marathons, and finished the Three Day Endurance Challenge’ where over 72hrs James ran two marathons, cycled 280km and lifted 100,000lbs of weights raising money for Heart Children NZ.