I've received a few emails from people inquiring about my low mileage training for ultramarathons. If you take weekly mileage alone, my training appears to be inadequate at best; downright stupid at worst.
If this were my lone ultra training, it would be stupid. I sincerely doubt I would be able to finish even a 50 miler with my running volume. Life circumstances (i.e. kids) limit my training time. My secret to maximizing the mileage I can get: high intensity interval training (HIIT).
The premise is simple- do a relatively short workout (usually less than 30 minutes) at a very high intensity utilizing exercises that mimic the demands of very long distance running. The exercises themselves use minimal equipment, body weight, and balance. Repeating this type of workout two to four times per week is the perfect compliment to hill work and long runs.
Since beginning this style of workout, I've found I can run longer with less pain and fatigue. When I finish, my recovery time is shorter. It has also helped me with hill running and transitioning between running and walking late in races. For trail running, the balance and coordination aspect of the specific exercises has aided my trail running skills.
So how does one go about starting a high intensity interval training program? If you've followed my blog for some time, you know I am a huge proponent of Crossfit. While there are many excellent Crossfit gyms (like Crossfit Grand Rapids, the host of my current schedule of barefoot workshops) around the country and world, it is entirely possible to learn and follow the program for free from their main website.
As an alternative to Crossfit, there are many great websites that utilize this type of program. One such site, Kemme Fitness, is being created by my good friend and part-time workout partner Pete Kemme (he's also an artist). Kemme's workouts are legendary for their creativity and intensity. There aren't many workouts that can use your own body weight to reduce you to a quivering, blubbering mass of humanity curled in the fetal position in a pool of your own sweat and saliva. Kemme's oddly addicting workouts can achieve that crosstraining Nirvana. It's awesome!
There are other methods of crosstraining. Some swear by biking. Swimming is popular. Others use yoga or martial arts. For sheer effectiveness when running ultras, I'll stick to my HIIT workouts.