Signed up for Ultra-Trail Australia? Well, you better start training. No matter which distance you’re taking on at Australia’s biggest festival of trail running, you’ll want to train properly for it. Not only to get the most out of your body, but to fully enjoy the experience. The better prepared you are, the more you’ll be able to embrace the suffering and instead of grinding your way through the day, you’ll be smiling, laughing and taking in the scenery….for at least part of the journey anyway!
No matter how long you’ve been in the sport, whether this is your first trail race or you’re a seasoned veteran, the best thing to do is find a good coach or squad. Not only will their knowledge and experience make sure you get the right guidance, but it makes the whole process loads more fun. In all honesty, running might seem like a solo sport, however the best have a good team around them. Sharing the journey makes it way more enjoyable, plus for those doing the 100km you’ll need support crew – and for all participants in every distance, you’ll want a cheer squad!
Choosing a coach can be difficult. There are plenty of people out there offering online coaching, face-to-face sessions, squads, generic template programs etc. Each has its strengths and weaknesses. Typically, you get what you pay for. That said, a well-constructed online-only program such as those done by The Body Mechanic in The Locker Room, are very good for those looking for some general guidance or a simple structure to follow, but don’t necessarily need or desire a more thorough approach that costs more.
At the other end of the spectrum you have personalised coaching where a program is designed specific to your ability and needs, and is constantly massaged and adjusted on a weekly, or even daily basis. Being able to talk to your coach, receive detailed and personalised advice on not only training, but recovery, nutrition, race strategy, strength work etc, will get the most out of you. In my opinion, you either opt for the type of thing being offered by the likes of The Body Mechanic, or you sign up with a coach/squad that provides a customized program that’s monitored regularly, and where you can talk/message the brains trust for all sorts of other advice and help along the way.
Local knowledge is also the best. People that have a thorough understanding of the course are obviously going to be able to apply specificity to your training. As a bonus, if they know the part of the world you live in they can apply their course knowledge to the tracks and trails in your own area, so they can recommend where to do certain sessions.
The next question is ‘when’ to start training. The answer is pretty simple: now! The sooner you kick things off the better. There are so many facets to improving as a trail runner that even after a decade of time on the tracks, you’ll still find areas where you can improve. There are all kinds of different training environments to experience and become conditioned to. Such as flat fire trails, technical single track, steep climbs, stairs and descents. Throw into the mix the need to learn about what nutrition works best for you, a bit of strength and conditioning in the gym, learning about all the gear you’ll need, plus race strategy, the role of a support crew etc and you can see there’s loads to it.
The moral of this story is that it’s never too soon to commence your preparation. And when it comes to choosing what regime will work best it’s a matter of deciding how hands on a coach you want, and how much you want to commit to the program. My thoughts are simple. You’ve paid good money for an entry and committed to a life changing challenge. So do yourself a favour and maximise the experience by getting a coach or joining a squad that will get the most out of you. Trust me, the monthly fee most coaches charge is minimal when you think of the time and expertise you’re getting, and when the starters gun fires, you’ll want to be confident that you’ve done all you can to get ready for the race.