Last updated: 07-Mar-19
By James Eacott
Shrove Tuesday – aka Pancake Day – is today and I hope you enjoy a tasty stack of blueberry burstin’, sugar-sprinkled, maple syrup dripping tasty ones!
If you did indulge, you may be going into Lent tomorrow, craving the good stuff once more. Don’t sweat, though, Easter isn’t far off and those chocolate eggs are already occupying prime position at the ends of every supermarket aisle.
Much like Christmas, Easter can be a tricky time for ultra runners. The sheer quantity of chocolate on offer provides a hefty dose of temptation and it’s easy to go nuts. Who remembers emerging from a chocolate-induced coma on Easter Monday 2018, having polished off not just all of your own but also your kids’ eggs?!
It’s also hard to find time to train. Kids are on school holiday and we want to spend time with the family. Even if you don’t have children, it’s a period to reconnect with friends and family and put a little more time into socialising.
But neither of these mean that fitness must decline. Here are three tips to tackle Easter egg temptation, and three ways to still make fitness gains.
Three Tips to Tackle Temptation
Have a plan of attack
It’s tough to resist temptation if you’re hungry. It’s much easier to keep your cravings under check if you’re well fed and replete. As the eggs appear after each mealtime, make sure you’ve eaten well before unwrapping.
Get your greens in – plenty of veggies and salad – and keep protein high. Not only will that help maintain lean muscle mass during periods of lower training volume, but it’ll also keep you feeling fuller for longer.
Reward the hard sessions
Similar to having a plan of attack at each mealtime, periodise your treat eating around harder training sessions. If you’ve got an easy run prescribed, do it fasted in a carb-depleted state (before breakfast, for example), after which is the perfect window to enjoy some sugar-laden treats.
Alternatively, use the post-session treat as motivation to go extra hard on that sprint session and really earn the extra calories.
We’re not elite athletes – well, most of us aren’t – and ultra running, although a huge part of our lives, needs to fit within our own happiness indexes. Chances are you’re in the one percentile of the world’s population who challenge themselves to such extremes and adopt the lifestyle which goes with ultra running. This means that enjoying some treats at this time of year is nothing to stress about.
But there’s no point if it’s going to leave you riddled with guilt. Enjoy your favourite treats with no worries that doing so is going to set you back. It won’t.
If you do go on a bit of a binge over Easter weekend, avoid the common mistake of waking up the morning after the night before and smashing yourself. Don’t thrash yourself on the trails, chastising yourself for being weak and eating poorly. Just resume normal service and any small weight gain incurred will soon shift.
Three Time-Crunched Training Tips
Get others involved
The Easter weekend is all about friends and family. So, chances are you’re more likely to get a pass to go for a run if you’re also taking annoying Uncle Eric or your sibling’s hyperactive kids with you.
If, however, you don’t need to disguise your desire to run, there’s many ways to get others involved with your training over Easter weekend:
Catch up with a group of friends over a run.
Run to the pub on Sunday morning and reward yourself with a big roast lunch.
Hit the Easter Saturday Parkrun. This is a great session for an ultra runner.
Prioritise your sessions
Which sessions can you not do without?
This is personal for everyone and dependant on your upcoming goals and races, so your priorities may vary from this. But for me, if you only have time to squeeze in two runs over the long Easter weekend, I’d encourage you do a speed session and a long run.
Speed work might not be a regular occurrence in your training plan, but it’s ideal when you’re time-crunched. There’s no need to overthink the structure, just work hard for a series of intervals, such as:
20 x 200m hard on 200m recovery
16 x 400m hard on 200m recovery
8 x 800m hard on 4-minutes recovery
4 x 1600m hard on 5-minutes recovery
All of the above will do the trick of stimulating those oft-neglected fast twitch fibres and will surely leave you in a sweaty, heaving heap by the end of a short 45-minutes. Read this article for tips on how to run faster.
The other run to try and include is your long run.
The long run forms the backbone of ultra run training, and I’d advocate not letting this slip. If you’re in a peak phase, you may be hoping to hit the trail for upwards of 3+ hours. It’s still doable, just be prepared to get up early to fit it in.
If you simply don’t have the time, then change your long run to a build run. Rather than running for 3 hours, chop this down by 33% to 2 hours. On your 2-hour run, complete one hour at your normal easy long run pace, then start cranking it up. Over the course of 45-minutes, increase your pace steadily until you finish with 10 minutes at half marathon pace. Cool down for 10 minutes. Those 2-hours will be quite intense, but the physiological adaptations will be similar to a 3-hour plod. Plus, it’ll leave you more time for eggs.
If you want further long run suggestions, check out 4 Ways to Hack The Long Run.