The Importance Of Strength And Conditioning For Ultra Runner

The importance of strength and conditioning for ultra runners

When the tekkie hits the turf? The importance of strength and conditioning for ultra runners and distance participants.

Often, distance athletes fall into the habit of running as their primary means of training. This might be the reason why so many distance athletes are plagued by ‘’niggles’’ that they can’t shake. “I have never felt this strong in a 48-hour race”; The words of an adventure racer working closely with his Biokineticist for over four years. As the Biokineticist, this was probably one of the most rewarding compliments of my career. You might say that this is all good and well, but subjective. In this article we explore the importance of working with a Biokineticist when participating in long distance events, specifically running.

In a systematic review by Blagrove et al. they explored the effect of strength training on various parameters of running performance. They found that regular strength training improved running economy and time trial performance without affecting body composition negatively. This debunks the concern that resistance training might lead to muscle gain and slower running times.

What is the concept of periodization?

Periodization is a concept well understood by Biokineticists. It relates to peaking at the right time. Your trainer should be aware of the training load at any given time during your season, and in the off season, for that matter. Biokineticists understand how to measure these variables, determine recovery time and programme in such a way that the strength training adds to your performance without hampering focus or injuring you in the process.

What is reactive strength?

“Reactive strength” is a buzzword in running research and relates to musculotendinous stiffness that influences how well the runner’s body absorbs repeated impacts from the road surface. A systematic review by Beattle et al. found that runners who participated in strength training pre-season, had better reactive strength and could further improve the same during the running season, whereas those that did not participate in strength training lost reactive strength during the season. This confirms strong evidence that strength training is an effective modality for injury management.

Our Case Study

Petrus entered my practice about four years ago plagued by recurring injuries. He is a never say die adventure racing athlete and will soon participate in the world

championship in St Francis, South Africa. The event is said to last approximately 72 hours over rough terrain including cycling, running, hiking, paddling and kloofing (hiking over impossible terrain). Over the years I have picked up certain terminology used in their community such as hike-a-bike which implies carrying your bicycle because the cycling route is too rough to stay on the bike, you get the idea.

In our first session I evaluated Petrus and worked out what the physiological demand that he was facing in these events. We started off by rehabilitating the existing injuries and followed a stepwise approach into a full-blown conditioning programme. The satisfying part is that both Biokineticist and Athlete share the success of injury free competing. I get to implement the exciting programs and he gets to race uninterrupted. The road less travelled does not go without setbacks but we are able to deal with these in a timeous manner to ensure that Petrus keeps doing what he loves.

So, if you are a novice looking to control overuse injuries on your way to the first marathon, or a seasoned runner wanting to peak your performance, do yourself a favour and consult a Biokineticist near you. If you are in the garden route area please contact us to see how we can assist you

by JJ Greyling