Planning A Running Year

As a racing season comes to an end it is time to look back over your achievements and yes, your failures over the last 12 months.

What went right, what didn’t go right? It is a question we should all ask ourselves.

  • What were my strengths?
  • What were my weaknesses?

Once you know the answers to the above, you have an idea of what to do over the winter months to make the following year a better one, not only in racing but training.

Planning is key. You need to periodize training so that you get the most from it.

  • Do you lack endurance?
  • Do you lack strength?
  • Do you lack speed?
  • Do you lack an ability to run on technical terrain?
  • Can you climb well?
  • Are you mentally strong?

The above list can go on and on.

Certain key elements should be present in any training plan and by answering questions similar to those above, you will start to understand what you need to do.

Winter has often been thought upon as time to do ‘base’ miles. These were long and steady miles with many hours building endurance. It is easy to fall in a trap and do too much of this. Don’t do what everyone else is doing, instead do what you need to do. Ultra-runners often have loads of endurance, after all, they race long distances all year. But with all that endurance, they can lack some strength and speed.

You need to look at yourself and ask, ‘What do I need to do?’

Decide on objectives for the following year and yes, you can even decide on plans for the year after too. Sometimes our long-term goals are so big or challenging that we need longer than a year to prepare!

Decide on A, B and C races, please remember that you can have multiple A goals, you just need to make sure that you can train, race and recover. The best thing to do here is to get a planner that shows the whole year and then add objectives marking them A, B and C – you will soon see if your targets are achievable. This is an invalidly process and actually takes very little time.

A target needs blocks of training and depending on the A-Race, that block will vary in length based on the challenge and the experience of the individual. A classic marathon plan may be 12-16 weeks, whereas for 100-miles you may work on 28-weeks.

In our scenario, we are saying that our A race is a 100-mile race, 28 weeks away.

Yes, its a long way off but dont be fooled into thinking you have plenty of time. Key races have a habit of sneaking up on you.

Go through the questions again.

If this is your first 100, training will be very different to someone who is running there 20th for example. Endurance may well be a primary target, whereas the experienced 100 runner will have endurance but may well want to go quicker?

100-miles is a long way so *base training and getting the miles in is key. We have allocated 8 weeks for this in the plan below. Hours of easy miles progressively building up to a C race (marathon or 50k). It is always good to have a goal and a target to aim for. The C race is a training race and will have no taper, you would race through it as a training long run.

*A traditional pyramid training plan starts with base and then typically adds speed as an event comes closer. However, we are ultra-runners and it is important to be specific. High intensity training creates a lot of fatigue and this is why I am a huge fan of reversing the pyramid and getting speed work done during the winter so that the training plan that leads into an A race is specific to the demands of the race.

So, if you are an experienced ultra-runner looking to improve with years of running and loads of endurance, think about making weeks 1-8 speed based with a fast marathon as a C (or maybe even A) race objective at the end of this block.

When you enter your racing season this will be in the build phase so its a good idea to place a B race objective that will allow you to progress to the A goal or multiple A goals.

As you come to the end of the build phase, you should be in form and race fit. What you want to do now is fine tune that form, tweak it and hold it for the A race. If you are cramming long runs in or looking for speed, its too late. You basically misjudged the planning or started training too late.

Maintaining what fitness, you have is also about being specific to the A target. 

   1    Is your 100-mile target race on groomed trail with little elevation gain?

   2    Is it an out-and-out mountain race with gnarly terrain and plenty of elevation gain?

Its important to be specific now, the two races above require very different approaches. This is something that you will have understood in January (or earlier in the year) when you looked back at last year, looked ahead to this year and understood your strengths and weaknesses so that you could plan accordingly.

       Scenario 1 requires running, good form and leg speed.

       Scenario 2 requires hiking, climbing, leg strength and plenty of endurance.

You cant perform well at every event and this is why A, B and C races are important. Yes, I know the elite runners manage to race several key races a year but look at the training and look at the planning. We have all seen top runners turn up at early season races and place just inside or outside the top-10.

– Francois D’Haene

Francois dHaene always provides a good examples of how to:















In 1 racing year, Francois won 3 x 100-mile races.

That is an incredible skill and for sure as racing becomes more aggressive, faster and more brutal, this training approach is going to become far more important for those who want to race to their own potential and maybe more importantly race year-on-year. We have all witnessed the damage that racing and training too much can do at an elite level runner. Listen to my podcast with Geoff Roes HERE as he provides a great insight into potential problems. 


Ask questions such as:

   1    Do I race every weekend?

   2    Do I rest?

   3    Do I allow easy and recovery weeks?

   4    Do I cross train?

   5    Do I sleep well?

   6    How is my nutrition?

   7    Am I constantly tired?

   8    Do I feel alive and full of beans?

   9    Hows my resting heart rate?

   10  Is my pace good?

   11  Hows my strength?

   12  Hows my recovery?

   13  Do I have a plan?

   14  Have I structured my plan to an A race?

The above questions are a starting point. Read through the list and add your own questions to appraise what type of runner you are. It may well be that running for you is an escape and social thing, you may be happy to race week in and week out and you are not worried about gaining a PB or improving; if that is you, great. Id still say planning some RnR is a good thing to avoid burn out.

If you are someone looking to perform and improve, you need to be more self-critical. Plan your training and periodize your training so that you are able to (hopefully) predict good form on 1 or multiple A race days in a year. This is not easy.

Carefully plan races in terms of importance,Abeing the most important. Also make the races progressive and in line with your A race. For example, if your A race is a 100-mile race, a C race may be a marathon, a B race may be a 50K or 100K and then the Ais the big step of 100-miles.

Remember you can only hold form for a limited length of time and if you want to peak, you need to make sure that this planning stage is done early so that you understand what you are trying to achieve. Its all about steppingstones.

Ask yourself, what is the purpose of the training blocks you are planning:

       Are you laying base training?

       Building fitness?

       Maintaining fitness?


A training block with 2 x A races (the 2nd race being 100-miles) may look like this:

Base Training Phase

Week 1 – Base or Speed

Week 2 – Base or Speed

Week 3 – Base or Speed

Week 4 – Base or Speed (with the addition of a longer run)

Week 5 – Base or Speed (with the addition of a longer run)

Week 6 – Base or Speed (with the addition of a longer run)

Week 7 – Base or Speed (with the addition of a longer run)

Week 8 – Base with C Race probably a marathon.


Build Training Phase

Week 9 – Build

Week 10 – Build

Week 11 – Build maybe a C Race just as a long run?

Week 12 – Build

Week 13 – Build

Week 14 – Build with B Race 50K.



Week 15 – Maintain/ Specific

Week 16 – Maintain/ Specific

Week 17 – Maintain/ Specific

Week 18 – Maintain/ Taper with A Race



Week 19 – Recovery

Week 20 – Recovery easing back into Build.



Week 21 – Build

Week 22 – Build

Week 23 – Build

Week 24 – Build

Week 25 – Build

Week 26 – Build

Week 27 – Taper

Week 28 – Taper and A Race (this scenario 100-miles)


Recover, Recover and Recover.

This article is not a hard and fast plan, its a guide for you to go away, look at your targets having assessed past targets and hopefully it makes you think about future objectives so that you can plan for a successful, injury free year of running and racing.

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*article first published in 2016 and has been updated.

Planning a Training Week by Marc Laithwaite


In recent articles we’ve talked about how to plan you training and how to look ahead with target goals in mind. Marc Laithwaite now narrows our focus and takes a look at a single week of training and how you should plan it for maximum benefit.

What’s the purpose of the session?

I’ve mentioned many times that one of the key issues with the way people train, is that they do their easy stuff too hard and their hard stuff is too easy. This generally results in most of the training being done in a ‘middle zone’. Before you plan your week, you need to consider the objective of each session as that will influence the optimal day and time.

High Intensity Intervals / Hard Sessions

‘HIT’ or harder sessions are designed to be carried out at a HIGH INTENSITY. For this reason, you can’t plan them on the days following other hard sessions, you must be rested for these sessions or you will not be able to produce the required intensity, whether that be running speed or cycling power output.

Low Intensity Endurance Sessions

The lower intensity endurance sessions can be done on days following harder sessions, it’s ok to complete these when tired. You can slow down and complete the distance comfortably, without having to push yourself.

Time Of Day

It is generally easier to complete higher intensity sessions in the evening, as our bodies are more awake. It’s often more difficult in the mornings, although some ‘morning people’ don’t have an issue. Completing longer endurance sessions in the morning isn’t an issue as the intensity isn’t very high. There is also a benefit to doing longer and easier sessions in the morning as you can do them ‘fasted’ and encourage fat usage. One of the problems relating to this is that most races are in the morning, so at some point in the season, there may be real benefits to switching higher intensity sessions to mornings.

Single Sport Example:

For single sport athletes, the planning is relaively simple. You can have 2-3 harder days, broken with easy/rest days:

Mon: Easy run / ride (AM)     Strength (PM) – depending upon time of year
Tue: Hard intervals / training (PM)     (May be affected by strength)
Wed: Easy run / ride (AM)
Thur: Hard intervals / training (PM)
Fri: REST / Very easy run / ride (AM)
Sat: Hard Intervals (AM)
Sun: Easy long run / ride (AM)

Multi Sport Athletes:

If you’re training for triathlon, it becomes a little more difficult. Here’s an example based on 2 key swim/cycle/run sessions and includes strength for this time of year:

Mon: Swim (AM)     Strength (PM)
Tues: Easy long run (AM)
Wed: Swim (AM)
Thur: Cycle Hard Intervals (PM) – Option of 30 minute run to follow
Fri: REST or Swim (AM)
Sat: Run Hard intervals (AM)
Sun: Easy long ride (AM)

Strength Training

If you are doing strength training, this can leave you feeling very ‘heavy’ for 24-48 hours after a hard gym session. You firstly need to consider the time of year (block of training). If you are still in your base phase, you can swap a harder ride/run session for a strength session or fit in the strength on your easier / recovery days. If this is your strategy, you should expect to feel heavy on the following days and you may not perform at your optimal level. As the season approaches, you may need to reduce strength to hit your target training times in the more intense sessions.


Take a look at your training week and ask the following questions:

1. What sessions do you need to be doing at this time of year to hit your goals?
2. On which days are the key sessions where I need to be performing at high intensity?
3. If so, have you got an easier day before and after?
4. Can you change the time of day to benefit the session?
5. Are your easier / longer days planned to follow the harder days?
6. Are you doing those easier / longer days at the correct / low intensity or just racing your mates?

Critically, ask yourself the question, is there a clear difference in intensities between your training sessions. Are your longer sessions easy and your shorter sessions near maximal, or are they all falling into that ‘middle zone’ where the easy is too hard and hard is too easy?

This article as first posted on the Endurance Store Blog

Read related articles here:

Planning a Running and Racing Year HERE

To Base Train or not to Base Train HERE

Base Training HERE

How long should the long run be? HERE

In addition, I wrote several articles on walking and how important it is to practice this for:

Ultra running HERE

Walking with poles HERE

Walking efficiency when climbing HERE

About Marc:

Sports Science lecturer for 10 years at St Helens HE College.

2004 established The Endurance Coach LTD sports science and coaching business. Worked with British Cycling as physiology support 2008-2008. Previous Triathlon England Regional Academy Head Coach, North West.

In 2006 established Epic Events Management LTD. Now one of the largest event companies in the NW, organising a range of triathlon, swimming and cycling events. EPIC EVENTS also encompasses Montane Trail 26 and Petzl Night Runner events.

In 2010 established Montane Lakeland 50 & 100 LTD. This has now become the UKs leading ultra distance trail running event.

In 2010 established The Endurance Store triathlon, trail running and open water swimming store. Based in Appley Bridge, Wigan, we are the North West’s community store, organising and supporting local athletes and local events.

Check out the endurance store HERE

Endurance Store Logo

Strength Training for Endurance (Part 3) by Marc Laithwaite


This week we look at putting the schedule together for the winter period and how to ‘periodise’ and progress towards summer 2016.

Missed part 1 or part 2? Go HERE and HERE

Strength training by nature involves high resistance for a short period of time, it’s important that you don’t rush your routine, you must provide adequate rest between exercises. Don’t turn this routine into a ‘circuit training session’ moving quickly from one exercise to the next. I’m not questioning the benefits of circuit type training, but to develop strength, there must be adequate recovery between exercises for maximal lifting.

Periodisation Made Simple

Periodisation is simply breaking your training into blocks. You probably do this already, winter being your base phase. In a similar way, you should periodise your strength training. If you were to start your strength training at the beginning of December, that gives you 6 months to reach the end of May, which for most is the beginning of the summer season. Here’s the simple guide to the exercise routine and your periodisation plan:

Base Phase, Weeks 1-8

The objectives for the base phase are:

1. Learn the exercises so technique is perfect

2. Reduce risk of injury by improved joint stability

3. Develop basic conditioning as a platform to progress from

1. The routine should be completed twice per week and repetitions for all free weights exercises should be 12-15. For core stability exercises such as plank etc, the ‘time’ should be whatever you can manage whilst holding perfect form.

2. Learning the technique is critical for all of the exercises. If you have never done free weight exercises, the basic technique will be challenging. For weeks 1-4, minimise the weight and learn the exercises to perfection. Don’t simply start adding weight / resistance, learning the movement is a critical part of your development. Weeks 1-4 is ALL ABOUT TECHNIQUE AND MOVEMENT.

3. During weeks 5-8 increase the load / weight for the exercises gradually, repetitions should stay at 12-15. It’s impossible to predict the actual ‘weight/kg’ you should be lifting, this is something that you will have to work out for yourself. Don’t overload during weeks 5-8, your technique must remain perfect.

Strength Phase, Weeks 9-16

1. You need to increase resistance during this phase, without losing technique. To develop strength you need to reduce the repetitions and use a heavier weight. Weeks 9-12, complete 3 sets for each exercise and your repetitions should be 12/9/6, increasing the weight slightly each set. Weeks 13-16m complete 3 sets for each exercise and your repetitions should be 10/6/4, increasing the weight each set.

2. Over this period you aim is to increase resistance, you should do this when you feel ready. Some people will increase every week, others may need a couple of weeks before progressing.

3. You should change exercises slightly in strength phase to focus on larger muscle groups.

Power and Plyometric Phase, Week 17-24

1. The strength work will continue with an emphasis on explosive power. You should continue to progress the exercises and increase the resistance, using lower repetitions. By completing the exercises more quickly, in an ‘explosive manner’ you will switch focus to ‘power’. Use a moderate weight to warm up then complete 3 sets for each exercise and your repetitions can drop as low as 6/4/2 increasing the weight each set.

2. Plyometrics will be introduced, this is particularly important for running performance. Plyometric activities will include jumping, hopping etc. For cyclists, you can introduce sports specific explosive power. This is done by combining your strength work with explosive, high resistance, short duration sprinting on a static bike. Introduce the plyometrics gently and build over 8 weeks. Complete 3 sets of each plyometric exercise, building the intensity (e.g. jumping higher / harder) throughout each set.

If you have a free weights routine already in place, you can apply the above principles to your schedule right now. Make sure you’ve read parts 1 & 2 HERE and HERE before starting this program.

Starting the program in January? No problem, as with any plan you need to adjust and adapt so that your plan works inline with your racing objectives and racing calendar.

About Marc:

Sports Science lecturer for 10 years at St Helens HE College.

2004 established The Endurance Coach LTD sports science and coaching business. Worked with British Cycling as physiology support 2008-2008. Previous Triathlon England Regional Academy Head Coach, North West.

In 2006 established Epic Events Management LTD. Now one of the largest event companies in the NW, organising a range of triathlon, swimming and cycling events. EPIC EVENTS also encompasses Montane Trail 26 and Petzl Night Runner events.

In 2010 established Montane Lakeland 50 & 100 LTD. This has now become the UKs leading ultra distance trail running event.

In 2010 established The Endurance Store triathlon, trail running and open water swimming store. Based in Appley Bridge, Wigan, we are the North West’s community store, organising and supporting local athletes and local events.

Check out the endurance store HERE

Endurance Store Logo

Strength Training for Endurance (Part 2) by Marc Laithwaite


Missed part 1? Read HERE first

Last week we discussed joint stability and core training, specifically how you can improve your economy by developing a stable platform. I said last week that joint stability comes forst, before you start adding resistance to the major muscles, so if you missed the blog, go back to the menu above, click ‘The Endurance Blog’ and scroll down to last week’s article (Part 1).

So this week, we’re looking at strength exercises for swimming,cycling and running. Before we start, I’d like to make it clear that the advice is my personal view, based on research I’ve read, what I’ve observed as a coach and what I’ve used as an athlete. I think it’s correct and have clear reasons for that, your opinion may vary and you may have read different advice, but I can live with that. Take from it whatever you feel beneficial and feel free to question me by reply.


I wrote a blog a few weeks ago titled ‘why runners can’t cycle’. The title sounds a bit harsh, but it very much relates to strength training for cyclists. We’ve tested hundreds of cyclists and amazingly, we seen a clear correlation between how far they can get during an 8-10 minute aerobic ramp test (increase the resistance every minute until they reach VO2 max) and how much power they can produce in a 5 second sprint. This means that is you can’t produce a high amount of power in a 5 seconds sprint, your cycling performances from 25 miles up to Ironman will also be limited. As unbelievable as that may sound, that’s what the test results show.

Distance runners tend to have poor leg strength as it’s not required to the same extent as cycling. Female runners tend to be worse than male runners. We often find that these people lack basic leg strength and find it difficult to make the transition to cycling (tend to be better on long hills, poor on the flat and short hills). For this reason, general leg strength is a key requirement for cycling and should be assessed as an indicator of performance. If it’s poor, then general strength exercises such as squats and deadlift, with low reps and high weights can have a real benefit to performance. Older athletes have greater problems with strength, they tend to be ok with long and slow, hence they prefer longer events as they feel they are more able to compete.

Aside from the leg strength exercises, a general core and upper body routine can benefit the rider for the purposes of stability (sitting still and providing a stable platform to drive from). If you want to read the runners can’t cycle blog in full GO HERE


Squats and Deadlift are very useful exercises for muscle health and performance. Long distance running is catabolic in the sense that it ‘breaks down’ tissues. Conversely strength training is anabolic and help tissues to grow and perform optimally. I’ve rarely seen a distance runner ‘bulk up’ by doing strength work, but lots of runners are needlessly scared of weight gain.

Like all forms of training, strength should be periodised. Learn the exercises, increase the load whilst holding form and then progress to more specific exercises. For running, the most effective form of strength training is ‘plyometrics’. At it’s most simple, this is jumping, hopping and bouncing exercises. These ‘bouncing’ exercises teach the muscles and tendons to store elastic energy and act as if they were springs. The reality is that ‘great runners bounce’.

Plyometric exercises have been show to improve economy (remember last week we said economy is how much oxygen you need to exercise). In simple terms, if your tendons and muscles use elastic energy, allowing you to bounce, your effort is reduced. Elastic energy is FREE energy. If you can’t bounce, you have to rely on the muscles to work more, so oxygen and heart rate go up. Tendons and tissues which bounce don’t need to use oxygen, it’s free, so it feels easy.

Key things:

1. You can’t go straight into plyometrics and skip general strength, you will get injured.

2. As you get older, stored elastic energy becomes a major issue so you bounce less. Strength is therefore of much greater importance, the older you are.

A general core and upper body routine is critical for runners. You need to have a solid chassis which will not collapse as your foot strikes the ground. Sitting down and collapsing into your stride will mean you have no chance at all of bouncing back off the road or trail, all energy will be lost. The pelvis and torso should be rock solid and hold posture at point of impact.


A strength routine for the whole body will benefit any swimmer, in terms of both performance and injury prevention. Stability and strength is important throughout the body, for example:

1. At the shoulders as the hand enters the water and catches the water, shoulder stability is critical for a firm catch, from which to pull. Overhead exercises assist with shoulder stability, e.g. single arm dumbell press.

2. General strength in the arms, chest and back will allow more pressure to be applied during the pull phase. This is more relevant for swimmers who are particularly weak.

3. Core stability is important for balance, although I’ve never seen a swimmer with ‘low legs’ resolve the issue by doing the plank in the gym. I have however see plenty of people who can ‘plank like there’s no tomorrow’ but they have low legs when they swim. The core stability and balance required to raise the legs is much more effectively resolved by kicking work in the pool, with and without fins.

Now we’ve covered the 3 sports and how they differ in terms of demands, next week we will produce a sample strength routine which you can follow throughout the winter period. You’ll need access to some kettlebells or dumbells and you’ll also need access to a free weights bar for exercises such as squats. You’ll find these in any gym. As we discussed last week, winter is the perfect opportunity to start a strength programme. You should commit to it, even if it means dropping or reducing your swim, cycle and run. You can phase those sessions back into your routine from February onwards and feel faster and stronger for it!!

*This article was originally posted on here

About Marc:

Sports Science lecturer for 10 years at St Helens HE College.

2004 established The Endurance Coach LTD sports science and coaching business. Worked with British Cycling as physiology support 2008-2008. Previous Triathlon England Regional Academy Head Coach, North West.

In 2006 established Epic Events Management LTD. Now one of the largest event companies in the NW, organising a range of triathlon, swimming and cycling events. EPIC EVENTS also encompasses Montane Trail 26 and Petzl Night Runner events.

In 2010 established Montane Lakeland 50 & 100 LTD. This has now become the UKs leading ultra distance trail running event.

In 2010 established The Endurance Store triathlon, trail running and open water swimming store. Based in Appley Bridge, Wigan, we are the North West’s community store, organising and supporting local athletes and local events.

Check out the endurance store HERE

Endurance Store Logo

Strength Training for Endurance (Part 1) by Marc Laithwaite


Strength training for endurance athletes, really?
The first thing to overcome, is the relevance of strength work for endurance athletes. We’ve all read articles which quote reduced injury and various other benefits, but realistically, the ‘runner within us’ tells us that run training is far more relevant to performance and strength training is less important.

We treat strength as a suppliment to our usual training regime. A runner who completes 60 miles per week will most likely do a couple of 20 minute strength workouts at best (if they do any). Strength training is an ‘add on’ for most and it’s not a ‘key session’ in the week. If we’re short of time, the strength training will be dropped rather than the run session. Strength training is not at the top of the priority list.

If you’re going to commit to strength training, then you need to approach it as you would your other swim/cycle/run disciplines. You should be completing 2-3 sessions per week and setting aside an hour each time to do a structured routine. If you need to drop your swim/cycle/run sets to get the strength done, then so be it. At this time of year, racing is limited and most are developing a base foundation, so now is the perfect time. You could just do the same as last year, but will it work? If you don’t see much change year on year or you are getting slower, it’s definitely time to try something new.

Strength…. what does it mean?

Strength is the maximum amount of force you can produce in a single contraction. It’s the biggest weight you can lift once. The main issue with ‘strength’ is in the definition of the word and it’s true meaning. We frequently use the word strength out of context, for example:

Long runs don’t give you ‘strength’ in the final miles of the marathon, that’s endurance. Hill reps don’t give you strength either, that’s endurance. Cycling in a big gear for 5 minutes doesn’t develop strength, that’s muscular endurance. Doing the plank for 60 seconds isn’t technically core ‘strength’, that’s muscular endurance also. Lifting the biggest thing you can for 1-2 repetitions, that’s strength.

What’s muscular endurance?

Muscular endurance can be best described as the ability of your muscles to keep working over a specific period of time. Doing lots of repetitions in the gym with light/moderate weights is muscular endurance’ and to some extent, muscular endurance is needed for swim/cycle/run to repeatedly turn the pedals and pull on the water. Core ‘strength’ is also muscular endurance, as you will hold positions or repeat multiple actions for a period of time, e.g. hold plank for 1 minute.

So what exactly should I be doing??

That really depends upon your sport and your personal abilities. Some people are already naturally strong and others are weaker, that would influence your decision to start a strength programme. We will often meet rugby players who have retired and taken up cycling. They are always strong enough, but their aerobic endurance is their weak link. By contrast, runners who take up cycling very rarely have the leg strength required for cycling. This demonstrates that whilst swim/bike/run are all endurance sports, some ‘endurance sports’ require strength more than others. You can see why strength training is a confusing subject!

Let’s categorise strength into useful areas and list the benefits:


Core training generally involves holding positions for a period of time, such as the plank exercise and is generally designed to strengthen your middle region (abs/lower back/sides). We consider CORE training to mean ‘CENTRE’ and therfore aimed at abdominals.


Here’s where the CORE confusion starts. Core exercises are often designed to stabilise hip joints, knee and ankle. Doing a single leg squat to strengthen glutes and stabilise hips will get thrown into the CORE routine. Exercises which help shoulder stability might also get thrown into the CORE category.

In simple terms, we do certain exercises to control stability in our joints and certain parts of our body. The stability exercises which target our middle, we refer to as core exercises.

Why do them?

Muscles can be split into 2 categories, those which generate the movement and those which stabilise whilst the others generate the movement. As an example, consider cross country running. You plant your foot on the ground and then use the larger leg muscles to drive your foot back and propel yourself forwards. Unfortunately whilst you are trying to do this, your foot is sliding around in the mud so you don’t have a solid platform to drive from.

Specific muscles will stabilise the leg and foot, giving a solid base from which to generate movement in a forwards direction. Joint stability is extremely important, you need a solid base to ‘drive off’ if you want to run quickly through the mud. There are 2 things going on here, the first is to keep your foot still and planted on the ground, the second is to then drive forwards off that foot.

The same can be said for ‘core stability’. If your chassis is collapsing every time you try and run, then you have no chance of performing well. Your pelvis is propped up by both legs, acting as pillars underneath. As soon as you lift a leg, a pillar is removed the pelvis collapses on that side. Holding the pelvis and torso in position is critical for performance. It’s the same for sitting still and driving the pedals on your bike, it’s the same for stabilising your shoulder so you can catch and pull on the water when swimming. You need stability first, then you apply the power.

What about injury?

Who cares?? Seriously… who cares?? Who has ever read an article which outlines how to reduce your injury risk and immediately started to do it? We all know that exercises to prevent injuries are only done when you’re injured. When the injury goes away, you stop doing them. Strength training will make you a faster runner, swimmer and cyclist. If it reduces injury risk at the same time, that’s a bonus! Don’t think that injury prevention is the main attraction, it’s not…. strength training will make you faster.

So how exactly does ‘stability’ make me faster?

Core / Joint stability holds things in place. Your torso and pelvis will stay firm, your joints will be more stable and as a result your actions will be much more economical. Economy is the term given to how much energy you use to swim/bike/run at any speed. If you are not very econimical, you use more calories, require more oxygen to break down those calories and therfore you will have a higher heart rate and breathing rate. If you’re training with a friend and you work harder than they do to keep us, it’s because you’re less economical.

We said earlier than some muscles are stabilising and others producing the movement. When you run, both groups of muscles will require energy. If the stabilising muscles are rubbish and working extra hard, they’ll need more energy. You’ll be wasting your energy trying to hold things together rather than driving yoruself forwards.

Every time your chassis collapses, the muscles which propel you forwards will have to work harder due to the unstable platform. Every time your muscles try to push on the pedals or propel you forwards, something ‘gives’ or ‘slips’ and the energy is wasted.

Let’s recap

So far most of the stuff we’ve talked about has been centred around core and joint stability to make us more economical. So if we complete a thorough exercise routine which makes us ‘rock solid’ in our core and joints. If we have a stable/solid platform, the next step is to develop the ‘prime movers’, the muscles which produce movement. If you can hold yourself rock solid, then lets start applying some power through the thighs and hamstrings to turn the pedals or propel you forwards. It’s important that chassis comes before propulsion, you need to make yourself solid first, before training the major muscles to generate your power.

So what happens next then?

Well, we then move to major exercises to help develop that strength / muscular endurance which will propel us forwards at a faster pace. The issue is that swim/bike/run all require different elements of strength and different exercises to improve performance, so the plot thickens further.

Next Week Part 2: The best strength exercises and routines for swim, bike and run
Final Week Part 3: We’ll show you a video of the routine and how to progress over winter

The main question to ask, is are you willing to give it a go? Are you willing to make it your focus for the winter period and commit to those 2-3 sessions each week without fail?

If so, we’ll see you next week. Who knows, it might even make you faster!

*this post was originally posted here

About Marc:

Sports Science lecturer for 10 years at St Helens HE College.

2004 established The Endurance Coach LTD sports science and coaching business. Worked with British Cycling as physiology support 2008-2008. Previous Triathlon England Regional Academy Head Coach, North West.

In 2006 established Epic Events Management LTD. Now one of the largest event companies in the NW, organising a range of triathlon, swimming and cycling events. EPIC EVENTS also encompasses Montane Trail 26 and Petzl Night Runner events.

In 2010 established Montane Lakeland 50 & 100 LTD. This has now become the UKs leading ultra distance trail running event.

In 2010 established The Endurance Store triathlon, trail running and open water swimming store. Based in Appley Bridge, Wigan, we are the North West’s community store, organising and supporting local athletes and local events.

Check out the endurance store HERE

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CYCLING for RUNNERS – Article 2 Recovery, Cadence, Long Sessions and Strength

Cycling for Runners HEADER2

In article 1 of CYCLING for RUNNERS we discussed finding the correct sized bike and then how to fit the bike. Niandi and myself ride the same size bike (52cm) however, our experience on a bike are different. I have been riding and racing bikes for years whereas Niandi is new and very much on a learning curve in using cycling to improve her running. Also, our morphology is different. Niandi has a slightly longer leg whereas my torso is longer.

My bike is a SCOTT Addict 10. It’s a stiff bike, made of carbon and it’s all about speed. The geometry is classic race geometry with a 74deg seat angle. It’s fast, sometimes a little twitchy but really grips the road.

Scott Addict 10

Niandi’s bike by comparison is a SCOTT Solace 20. It’s a new breed of bike from SCOTT that provides comfort and performance with relaxed geometry. It’s still a super light bike but for long days in the saddle or for the novice cyclist, this bike will certainly help ease the transition. Also, importantly the ‘reach’ of the Solace is less than the Addict. As we mentioned in bike fit, we can tweak saddle, height, handlebars and stem to ensure that our bikes work for us.

Solace 20

So, how is your bike? Do you have it set up properly and do you feel comfortable? Before progressing with some specific cycling sessions on how to improve, we wanted to provide you with several key bullet points why cycling can benefit you as a runner.

You may well have turned to cycling in the past because YOU HAD TO! Yes, we all get injured and as an injured runner we are usually desperate to get an endorphin kick, maintain fitness and reduce impact. Step in cycling…

Although cycling is great as that ‘alternative’ to running, why not think ahead and plan cycling into your weekly schedule to avoid that injury that is almost certainly waiting to happen. 


Injured or recovering from hard run training, cycling provides great ‘active’ exercise with no impact. We have often heard the phrase, recovery run! But does a recovery run really exist? 20/30 or 40mins of easy running is still creating impact through all your joints and muscles, even if you do not elevate your heart rate. So, why not replace some of these sessions with cycling? Cycling provides all of us with an opportunity to move our legs, increase blood flow, ease joint stiffness, ease tired muscles and we will flush out lactate acid from tired or stiff legs. This is nothing new. Runners have been using cycling as a means of active recovery or injury rehabilitation for years. The addition of a Turbo Trainer (indoor device that attaches to your bike) will also allow you to spin away indoors while keeping warm, dry and you can even watch some TV or listen to music if that is your thing.

Tips: Keep your gearing very light and ‘spin’ your legs. You do not want to be pushing big and heavy gears. Remember, this is about recovery and injury maintenance.


Cadence is something we will have all heard of. Cadence in cycling refers to how many revolutions our legs make per minute. If has often been stated that 90 rpm (revs per minute) is an optimum cadence. We agree! Spinning your legs for 90 rpm (180 for both legs) provides ‘souplesse.’ This souplesse (flexibility) is key to becoming an efficient cyclist. Look at this objectively and the next time you go out for a run, count your foot strike. Maintaining 90 rpm or 90 foot (180 both legs) strikes per minute will make you not only efficient but will also help with technique. Bike and run cadence are two transferable skills. When coaching cyclists, we often use 90 rpm as a benchmark; this also provides a great indicator as to when to change up and down gears. In time, as you become a stronger cyclist you will find that you are able to push a harder gear for the same cadence. In simple terms, you are getting stronger and this means you will go faster.

Tips: You can use a cycle computer and magnet to provide information ‘live’ while cycling. This can be extremely useful when looking to maintain optimum cadence. When running, you can use a foot pod or similar device to relay cadence back to a wrist unit. Both are great tools for improve bike to run cadence.


Long run sessions and back-to-back run sessions are an essential part of a good runners training plan. However, these sessions can damage the body and in time, potentially injure the body. A long bike ride in isolation or a ‘brick’ session is a fantastic way to gain added fitness time without impacting on your body. Long bikes allow you maximal aerobic time with minimal impact; the only downside will be that you need to be out longer for a similar gain to running. However, this is not the point… a long bike session is about adding variety, providing a new stimulus and increasing or maintaining fitness without impact. A brick session is when bike and run sessions are combined to make one session. Anyone coming from a duathlon or triathlon background will be well aware of this. Running on bike legs is quite a unique experience, the term ‘jelly legs’ is often used. This is because the legs and muscles are used in two very different ways. However, this transition process provides great stimulus and if done gradually, is a great addition to a training plan.

Tips: If you want to translate long runs to bike time, we often use 15min per mile, so, if you did a 20-mile run we would recommend a 5-hour bike ride as starting point. Of course many variables come in to play so be careful. Brick sessions are challenging, start by adding just 10-15 minutes of running to a bike session. In time you can build this but be gradual.


Running builds a certain set of muscles, fine tunes them and makes them extremely efficient for the job that you ask them to do; run! However, we have many other muscles that feel a little bit neglected with our run habit. Cycling provides a stimulus to these neglected areas. Running and just running makes us all plateau, adding cycling will not only compliment our run muscles but also so many other areas of our body will become stronger (such as our core, arms, shoulders, hips and so on). Add all this together and what we have is a faster and stronger runner.

Tips: Like anything, if you haven’t cycled before, start easy and progress slowly. No need to rush. After a bike ride, make sure you stretch, particularly hamstrings! Cycling turns your legs over in a smaller circle than running.

We caught up with Salomon International athlete, Philipp Reiter on his thoughts on why CYCLING is good for RUNNERS.

Philipp Reiter, Salomon ©

Philipp Reiter, Salomon ©

Philipp on RECOVERY

Spinning out the legs” on a bike is definitely one of the things I personally look forward too after a hard and/or long run. Spinning makes the blood go through my body faster and takes all the acids and by-products away. Shaking the legs out on a bike makes my muscles ache less and speeds up recovery.


Philipp on STRENGTH

Even if you just hike or walk around (instead of running on a rest day) your leg muscles always have to push to move the body. Have you ever recognized that you never pull and use the complementary muscles? Using cycling and specific bike shoes/pedals allow you to pull the pedals as well as to push them more intense than you would do without. But what is the advantage to build up the “other” muscles? After many years of running, muscle can become imbalanced and this increases the risk of injuries or other problems with tendons. Cycling will work these unused areas.


Philipp on IMPACT

Running impacts on bones, hips, tendons… no doubt! Cycling is relatively impact resistant, especially road cycling! However, you must ensure you have correct bike set up and fit. Don’t try to save time or money by cutting corners here. A bike that is too small or too large or one that does not have the correct fit will just impact on your power output and after a while you may get problems in your back or knees!


Philipp Reiter Cycling

Philipp Reiter Cycling

A long bike ride is a great way to have a long endurance session. I usually double my run time, so, if I wanted to do a 2-hour run I would replace with a 4-hour bike. You still get tired, you still get just as hungry and you definitely get the fitness benefits. What you don’t get is the damage and impact. However, you still need to run long… cycling is great is a great alternative to mix things up and provide stimulus but would never replace long runs. You just need to work them into your schedule.

In our next article we will talk about the right kit for cycling and provide you with some guidelines on how to include cycling in your current training plan.

Join us on STRAVA


Thanks to SCOTT SPORTS for the support and backing


Check out SCOTT HERE


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Episode 49 – Team Redden, 5000 mile project, Tim Stevenson and Emelie Forsberg

Episode 49 of talk Ultra ©


What a great show… we speak with ‘Team Redden’ about running and the incredible story of how mum, Sabrina and Teagan (aged 8yrs) tackled 100km’s. We have an in depth chat with David and Katharine who ran 5000 miles across South America in the 5000 mile project. Tim Stevenson joins us for a special Talk Training on Strength and conditioning. Emelie Forsberg is back for Smiles and Miles. The news, a blog, up and coming races and Speedgoat discusses pacers!



  1. Zach Miller – 5:38:53
  2. Matt Flaherty (Salomon) – 5:44:37
  3. Mike Wardian (The North Face)- 5:55:37
  4. Iain Ridgway – 5:57:26
  5. Ryan Aschbrenner – 6:13:25
  1. Emily Harrison (adidas) – 6:35:05
  2. Sage Norton – 7:14:03
  3. Kara Henry – 7:17:37
  4. Lara Shegoski – 7:20:34
  5. Shanna Ailes-Istnick – 7:30:02

Beacons Ultra

  1. Lee Kemp 5:58:37
  2. Mark Palmer 6:39:58
  3. David Jackson 6:49:13
  1. Mel D Varvel 7:24:35
  2. Isobel Wykes 7:35:10
  3. Katie Cole 7:59:35


Frosty – Everest Sky Love


“Too much snow and risky conditions stopped us…but not in our tracks. We all continued for more miles in more wonderful scenery. For me, my journey stopped in Namche Bazar. In front of Ama Dablam, Everest and Lhotse. There I rested in the fresh mountain air, absorbing the sun into my tired legs and finding the peace I was so ready for.”

Make sure you check out Frosty in the new Salomon Running video, S3 EO2 HERE

Interview – 5000mile project, David and Katherine running the entire length of South America. –

TALK TRAINING – Tim Stevenson from Kinetic Three Sixty – and ONE Athlete


Team Redden. Have to say, I found this interview quite inspiring… we discussed a few episodes ago about young Teagan Redden (8yrs) running 100km. I was on the fence… part of me thought, I’m not sure this is good. Another part of me thought; wow, awesome. What I do know is that it is very easy to have an opinion, fill in gaps and make assumptions. I hope you all, like me, are far more informed after this interview and maybe, just maybe, you will rethink any initial thoughts you had?

(Seth Redden, his ex-wife Sabrina, their five children (three biologically and two adopted) ages 2 to 10 years, and their dog, Baya, are going on the ultimate summer adventure. They’re starting out in Scottsdale, AZ in a big, white, 15-passenger van and heading to Silverton, CO where they’re camping and living out of the van for five(ish) weeks.)

MELTZER MOMENT – Pacers? The pros and cons, or is it just the cons…

SMILESandMILES with Emelie Forsberg –




New South Wales

Coast to Kosciuszko | 240 kilometers | December 06, 2013 | website


Kurrawa to Duranbah and Return – 50 km | 50 kilometers | December 08, 2013 | website

Narawntapu 50 km | 50 kilometers | December 08, 2013 | website


Bruny Island Ultra Marathon | 64 kilometers | November 30, 2013 | website


Razorback 58K Run | 58 kilometers | November 30, 2013 | website

Razorback 64K Run | 64 kilometers | November 30, 2013 | website

Razorback 68K Run | 68 kilometers | November 30, 2013 | website

The Full Bull | 75 kilometers | December 08, 2013 | website



Cambodia – The Ancient Khmer Path | 220 kilometers | November 29, 2013 | website


Cape Verde

Boavista Ultramarathon – 150 km | 150 kilometers | November 30, 2013 | website

Boavista Ultramarathon – 70 km | 70 kilometers | November 30, 2013 | website




Le Grand Menestrail | 53 kilometers | December 01, 2013 | website


La Saintélyon | 69 kilometers | December 08, 2013 | website


Trail du Tour du Canton – 82 km | 82 kilometers | December 07, 2013 | website




Chiemsee-Ultramarathon November – Dezember | 108 kilometers | November 30, 2013 | website

Lower Saxony

2. Lauf PSV Winterlaufserie 100 KM | 100 kilometers | November 30, 2013 | website

2. Lauf PSV Winterlaufserie 50 KM | 50 kilometers | November 30, 2013 | website

3. Lauf PSV Winterlaufserie 100 KM | 100 kilometers | December 07, 2013 | website

3. Lauf PSV Winterlaufserie 50 KM | 50 kilometers | December 07, 2013 | website



Le Défi Bleu | 58 kilometers | December 07, 2013 | website

TransMartinique | 133 kilometers | December 07, 2013 | website


New Caledonia

Evolo Kura to Mount | 300 kilometers | November 29, 2013 | website


New Zealand

Kepler Challenge Mountain Run | 60 kilometers | December 07, 2013 | website



IBTUR 88 Ultra Marathon | 88 kilometers | November 30, 2013 | website


United Kingdom


Coastal Trail Series – Dorset – Ultra | 34 miles | December 07, 2013 | website

West Berkshire

Winter 100 | 100 miles | November 30, 2013 | website




McDowell Mountain Frenzy 50K | 50 kilometers | December 07, 2013 | website


Calero Park 50K Run | 50 kilometers | December 07, 2013 | website

High Desert 50K Ultramarathon | 50 kilometers | December 01, 2013 | website

Malibu Canyon Trail Run 50 km | 50 kilometers | December 07, 2013 | website

The North Face Endurance Challenge San Francisco 50K | 50 kilometers | December 07, 2013 | website

The North Face Endurance Challenge San Francisco 50 Mile | 50 miles | December 07, 2013 | website


The Guana River 50K Trail Run | 50 kilometers | December 01, 2013 | website


Pine Mountain 40 | 40 miles | December 08, 2013 | website


Big Dog Trail Run 50 K | 50 kilometers | November 30, 2013 | website

North Carolina

Derby 50k Ultra Run | 50 kilometers | November 30, 2013 | website


Bigfoot 50K | 50 kilometers | December 07, 2013 | website


Civil War Relay | 52 miles | December 08, 2013 | website


Isle du Bois 54 km Trail Run | 54 kilometers | December 07, 2013 | website

Texas Trail 50K Run | 50 kilometers | December 07, 2013 | website

Texas Trail 50 Mile Run | 50 miles | December 07, 2013 | website


Ghost of Seattle 50K | 50 kilometers | November 30, 2013 | website


Join Karl on the Wings for Life run HERE

2014 Calendar HERE

IMAGES coffee table book – hard back, eBook and PDF HERE



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