Top tips for elevating your running fitness with treadmills

Hire Fitness supports First Person to run the Welsh 3 Peaks Challenge 

Top tips for elevating your running fitness with treadmills

This story has been recounted by Isaac Kenyon following his 3 peaks challenge:

I had never ran further than a marathon before and after 5 months of training I recently I became the first person to run the Welsh 3 Peaks Challenge over 4 days. This is summiting the three highest peaks (Mt.Snowdon, Cadir Idris and Pen-y-Fan) in Wales and running the distance between each of them also. I covered a distance of 233km and an elevation roughly the height of Mt.Everest. This was a trail running ultra over mountain tops, fells, peatlands, forests, fields and roads. I learned a lot from this experience I would like to share some top tips from using treadmills from Hire Fitness

Why did I want to run an ultra? 

During my ultra endurance challenge of the Welsh 3 Peaks run at times when it got tough and I felt out of energy and stopped for breaks, it was the “Why” that got me to carry on.

The“Why” message is an extremely powerful self-motivation technique in reminding you what you are doing to spur you on. I never rely upon others to motivate me, because I always develop a very clear “Why” for whatever I am doing and that is how I empower myself.

For the Welsh 3 Peaks Challenge my personal ‘Why’ was three-fold:

  • I had always done team challenges and this was the first big solo challenge that scared me and pushed me to a whole new level.
  • From a mental health perspective, this was an experiment to see how I could dig myself out of the ‘lows’ using my tools. In doing this it translated well to raising awareness of mental health and my chosen charity “Mind in Mid Herts” of which I am a trustee of.
  • I wanted to immerse myself in the wild landscapes of Wales, after seeing some pockets of Wales I have always dreamed of a deep dive.

When I created this challenge I established some structure/process, I call this the Preparation Phase and it is where I used Hire Fitness.

It’s all good having a vision, but if you don’t prepare you won’t reach the goal or the dream. Remember your 5 P’s – Proper Preparation Prevents Poor Performance.

Right (Komoot route – click here for it.)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       Isaac pictured here using the Hire Fitness > SHUA – T3900A – E6 treadmill              

Training Plan

So i needed to make a training plan for what I needed to do to achieve this vision I set myself. I also needed to understand what my current benchmark fitness was. Knowing where you stand now and where you want to get to in terms of fitness allows you to devise a suitable timeline for a training plan. There are certain environments you need to get familiar with running in, depending on the type of ultra you run. My ultra featured a lot of elevation, so it was important that I trained for a lot of elevation too.

Whilst in Hertfordshire it can be a little tricky to find a mountain to train on after work, so I was limited to travelling on weekends to find real mountains terrain. However I was able to simulate big gradients using the Super Deluxe Home Treadmill SHUA-T3900A-E6 that HireFitness provide. It has the functionality to add incline of up to 15% gradient. Allowing me to simulate running up long steep gradients that I otherwise wouldn’t find close to me in Hertfordshire.

As part of my training plan, I like to rack up time on my feet in preparation, whether that is from running or even hiking! When it comes to trail ultras, hiking is underrated in terms of building a good base of endurance and leg conditioning in a low-risk way. What I found during my Welsh 3 Peaks Challenge run as I was hiking a lot up steep hills, so it made sense to train like this too and hike up steep hills during my weekends as well. Walking/hiking is a different movement that will tire you in a different way to continuous running so you can mix your training between hiking and running. 

I also like to train harder in more difficult environments than the challenge I set myself out so whatever I came across in the Welsh 3 Peaks ultra would already have some form of resilience and capability. I find it is important to test yourself outside of running too. For example, I would hold a plank for 1 minute longer than I planned or do extra reps when squatting or run another mile at the end of a training run. This all helps to remind me that I have what it takes and build mental calluses ready for the challenges ahead.

Mental Preparation

If you are doing this solo, you are going to need to be ready to spend long periods alone in all sorts of weather conditions (sunny and hot, cold and wet, in the night, on windy mountain tops). In these instances, I

often check in with myself and take the opportunity to do some mindful running. I always find being present so inspiring during my runs. Being connected with your running often moves the focus towards things like your breathing, how your arms and legs are moving, or parts of the body that may be feeling tight or weak. It is important to connect with the body like this and at some point, I get this euphoria of pure joy when I am one with the run, which I call ‘pure running. 

I also talk to myself and motivate by getting emotional and thinking positive thoughts and saying them out loud “You can do this”, “Your feeling strong”. It is always easier in a team or with a buddy and you can bounce off each other too.

Sometimes I will sit down for a few minutes just to check in with myself and my surroundings then carry on my run. It is better not to rush past feelings and address them as they come. Also gives a cheeky reason to enjoy a lovely view. 

Nutrition preparation

It was important to know what nutrition works for me before and during an ultra-endurance run. My nutrition plan may work for others too or it may not, depends on the person.

I tend to do a lot of ‘carb-loading’ before I do big endurance challenges like the Welsh 3 Peaks run, I would advise you don’t eat everything in sight the night before the challenge and instead gradually increase your carbohydrate intake in the week leading up to the challenge to get your body used to storing more fuel. Be sure to hydrate well in the lead-up to the challenge, I also tend to reduce my consumption of fruit and vegetables. I find the less fibre the better as this will prevent gastric issues during the ultra. I also find that it is best to stick to plain and bland foods to avoid stomach upset, so avoid spices in the build-up week to the challenge and during.

Food I packed for the challenge?

When you are at rest, the body can digest all the foods we would normally eat but during ultra-endurance, it becomes an eating contest and during my Welsh 3 Peaks Run Challenge I was working at a slightly higher intensity which meant my body could only process simple sugars and some easily digestible carbs. If you can eat breakfast each morning then keep it light.

During the challenge I ate:

  • Pretzels/peanuts
  • Baby food pouches – I like Ella’s Kitchen (i choose the variety pack of 12 which includes: 1 x Carrots, Apples + Parsnips, 1 x Broccoli, Pear + Peas, 1 x Sweet Potato, Apple, Pumpkin & Blueberries, 1 x Apples + Bananas, 1 x Strawberries + Apples, 1 x Peaches + Bananas, 1 x Butternut Squash, Carrots, Apples & Prunes, 1 x Spinach, Apple + Swede, 1 x Sweet Potatoes, Broccoli + Carrots, 1 x Mangoes, Pears + Papayas, 1 x Red Peppers, Sweet Potatoes + Apples.)
  • Sweet potato wedges (in a sandwich bag with salt to replace salts lost)
  • CLIF Bar or other bars like Nak’D bars and Oat/Chia seed bars.
  • Rice Cakes
  • Gels/Bloks – I use these as a very last resort to get up the top of a mountain with no energy for instance
  • Water with electrolyte tablets/powder to replace the salts that are being sweated out
  • Bananas
  • Malt loaf
  • Assortment of nuts (cashews, almonds, Brazil, walnuts etc)
  • Real food like sandwiches or wraps (filling can be anything really, I like some chicken with salad and mayo)

What kit to use or pack?

Running a long way in an uncomfortable running kit is a great way to end your journey in pain! Take the time to try different pieces of kit so you can understand what works for you and identify any issues well before the day you attempt. An example of why this is important is the vest-pack strap can rub on your collar bone, this happened to me in a long marathon training run, for an hour it was bearable but not for 4+ hours. Having the right fit is essential. A great pair of fitted shorts and shoes are essential, otherwise, they can make life hell and ruin your fun.

The kit that i worked with for the run itself is below:

  • Vest-pack – I use Vaude’s hydration packs
  • Water bottles – Lifestraw is useful if out in the sticks and needs to filter pollutants out of water for clean drinking.
  • Running top – comfortable and i tend to run with a tight-fitting close to the skin.
  • Trail Running Poles – I use Leki Ultratrail FX.One
  • Running shorts – I like my shorts with a nice inner lining to stay comfortable throughout long runs and races.
  • Running Trainers – I run with Inov-8
  • Toe socks – to reduce the friction rub between my toes. I use Injinji
  • First aid – blister plasters, your medicine if you need it, bandages etc always be prepared.
  • Sunglasses – help keep the glare off
  • Running cap – I don’t tend to use this often but keeps the sun off.
  • Sweatband – it is a must as sweat in the eyes sucks!
  • Ordnance Survey Map
  • Battery packs and phone charging cable
  • Wireless Earbuds
  • Cash/money and bank card
  • Toe protector caps – I use these to prevent blisters from Runners Need
  • Waterproof jacket – always be prepared! Make sure it’s breathable as you are still exercising in it.

Execution Phase

Feeding

A general rule I followed during my run was to eat constantly from the start every 20mins on the regular and I would only leave it to 30mins max and drink fluids straight after to wash the food down as well as hydrate.

Pacing

If your pace feels too fast, then it’s too fast! Stick to the plan and don’t get caught up racing the clock or yourself in the early phase of the ultra, you will only pay for it later. Slow down. However long ultra is i find the first third to be a warm-up, for day 1 of my Welsh 3 Peaks Challenge run I was finding my feet and getting used to the routine. I try to keep a steady pace throughout the challenge that I can maintain.

Building the Resilience

Everyone who takes on ultra-endurance challenges will go through rough patches or low moods, I certainly did and it can feel like ‘hitting the running wall’ on multiple occasions, over time through experience I have learnt that these rough patches always pass in time, and things improve. For instance, running in the night is colder and harder on the body and mind, eventually, daylight will appear and this changes the mood and brings hope, it’s just about enduring that difficult phase until time passes. What these challenges represent to me are learning experiences and they help me build resilience in tough moments in any aspect of life. 

Nicky Spinks’s “Rule of Three”

I like this advice from Nicky, “If you’re in an ultra and you’ve thought of something three times, then in reality you’ve probably thought of it between 5 and 10 times. This is a warning sign and it’s your body telling you that it needs whatever it is you’ve been thinking about. It could be a need for food or water, to put clothes on, take clothes off, go to the loo or fix a sore spot. Don’t ignore it any longer. Stop right away and do it” – Nicky Spinks.

Enjoy yourself

My last tip is after all the preparation and getting to the start of your journey and doing the run itself, it is important you remember to enjoy every minute, you are lucky to be able to do so and it is just sport at the end of the day. So when things go wrong, learn from those experiences and move on.

This was taken by Jacob Chambers on Day 4 my last day and I am still smiling, I love this sport!

If you found this useful, please share it with others and if you have any questions or discussion points please get in touch.

Written by Isaac Kenyon 

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