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5 Biggest Mistakes Ultra Runners Make

Updated: Jun 6, 2021

Doing Too Many Hard Sessions

Ultra-running isn’t totally about speed, but being able to maintain a sustainable speed over a longer distance. If you’re *always* doing short, hard efforts – yes, you’ll improve your Vo2 max for sure which will go a long way towards your fitness. On the other hand, you’ll be missing out on the physiological adaptations of what running at a slower pace will contribute to your overall fitness. Not to mention the extra stress on your body and the recovery needed between all the hard sessions which can disrupt the consistency of training required for ultra training. If you’re interested in this topic, check out this podcast –

This brings me to my next point.

Running More KMS than Necessary

Yes, you need to run a lot of kilometres because you’re doing an ultra-distance race. However, if you find yourself doing big sessions and needing more than 2-3 days off training to recover from, then you might want to re-evaluate the length of your longest runs. Don’t get me wrong, the ‘longest’ run has a time and place in every good program, where adequate rest is allocated to adapt to the training – but you shouldn’t be putting yourself in the deep end every few weeks and struggling to get back into running afterwards. You’d be better off doing shorter runs and being able to back them up with more running sooner, where you can keep your overall running volume relatively consistent without having big breaks in your training.

Not Eating or Drinking Enough

Most general nutrition advice recommends about 60g of carbohydrate per hour. This is GENERAL nutrition advice – playing it safe, for the vast majority. Other factors to take into consideration – body weight, how trained your gut is to ingest carbohydrates during exercise, which sugars you’re using, how much of it is liquid, etc. The only real way you can find out is to train and to test it. Why would you do the bare minimum in fuelling if you could take on more carbs without issue? The only way to know is to find out – and this includes keeping a log of what you’re eating, track your carbs, and increase your intake over time to see how much you can get away with. Like I said, why are you doing the bare minimum when you could trial more and find out what is optimum. Word to the wise: Don't try anything new on race day - this includes increasing your carb intake to un-tested levels!

Not Doing Strength Work

My athletes will probably say that I sound like a broken record writing this one – but it’s true. Only the most robust athletes will get away without doing any strength training. These people are extremely rare and you probably aren’t one of them. Most people have muscle weaknesses that get exposed once the kilometres crank up. Nobody is asking you to spend hours in the gym lifting super heavy weights getting swole, but a little pre-hab/rehab goes a long way, especially if you spend a lot of your day sitting at a computer like most of us (hello weak glutes).

Focusing Too Much on the 1%

We are all suckers for the latest recovery gear/methods, the inflatable boots, the massage gun, the cryotherapy, and so on. The majority of people are better off spending their hard-earned cash on reducing stress in their life and freeing up more time to get the basics right. Eat, sleep, and recover. Most athletes don’t over-train, they just under-recover by not sleeping enough or not giving their body the adequate nutrition to fuel their training. If you need diet advice, hit up our dietitian David Bryant. First get the basics right and then consider where you can make the extra gains in other areas.

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