Back to the basics

One thing I’ve learned the hard way -and I did it in multiple occasions- is to go back to the basics. What do I mean with this? Here’s a concrete example:

Eiger Ultra Trail E51
Distance 51km
Height difference + 3100m / -3100m
85% (43km) trail, Hiking Path, Forest road / 15% (8km) Asphalt

Back in July 2017 I ran -and completed- the Eiger Ultra Trail E51. I did it in something like 12 hours and some minutes… which believe me, it’s a very long time and I was among the really last ones. Didn’t matter, I was extremely surprised to actually be able to complete it. Why? Because I didn’t really train for it. I didn’t train the basics and I “kind” of trained trail running.

I started well, had a proper 12 weeks pre-made plan, super motivated. In the first week I did an easy run in Zone 2 and a hill run near home, another easy run in Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland, two days later a loop of Central Park in New York and the day after a 19 km run around New York in zone 2.
That’s it. I got sick, was on full on antibiotics for a couple of weeks, it took some time to recover, weeks went past… no trainings.
A few weeks before the run I realised I wasn’t the smartest, so I went for a trail run with my running buddy up Mount Pilatus in Switzerland. We both couldn’t walk for a week. As soon as we could walk again we went and ran up Mount Rigi after work. Just below the 3 hours mark to go up and down, that was impressive. Almost no leg pain.

15th of July 2017, the day of the run. I survived, I got to that finish line completely exhausted… regretting I didn’t train more.

That’s me on the left. Happy, tired, quite chobby and surprised I was still alive

Lesson learned? I hope so. I’m currently training without a clear goal in mind (that’s a lie, but I’ll tell you more about it later on), but the type of training I’m doing is completely different.

What I’ve learned -when I ran the Davos Iron Trail without training, or when I ran the Luzern Marathon without training…, or when I ran the Eiger Ultra Trail without training- was that the legs would hold, my breath too and with some mental strengt I would eventually crawl towards the finish line. My back was hurting, my upper body fitness was non-existing and I was struggling standing straight.

So, since I’ve learned the lesson, I decided to head to the gym and seriously get into the absolute basics: running here and there, jumping, hanging, pushing, whatever would increase my overall physical condition. I spoke to a trainer without going too much into detail, I simply said I wanted to reinforce my core muscles. I explained him about my two broken and compressed vertebrae, the damaged axillary nerve and he gave me a program that would fit me.
I started going two to three times a week, then four and in between trainings I added some running as well as indoor cycling as a warm up and cool down.
When I run and cycle I try to stick to a hearth rate between 150 and maximum 160 bpm. When I train at the gym with weights and other exercises such as squats, leg press, etc., I focus on a realistic number of repetitions and normally three sets. When it seems like is going pretty well, I increase the weight at each set, if by the end of the last set I’m tired but still feeling good and I feel like I’ve actually trained, that’s the weight I’ll use in the next couple of weeks.
What is extremely important and I noticed many people doing it wrong, is to seriously stick to a realistic number of repetitions. What I mean with this is that if for example you’re doing eight repetitions on the leg press and after five you’re absolutely dying, then step back and either reduce the weight or reduce the number of reps. Your last rep should be as good as your first one, if you can’t stick to this, you will simply not improve because you will be performing the exercise wrong by compensating with other muscles and with a wrong body position.

Back to the basics. Last Saturday I went for a 22 km run, not only I improved my half marathon time, but I could absolutely feel the benefits of the trainings I’ve been doing at the gym. I kept a good running posture, my muscles were not aching as much as they would have if I did it a few weeks ago and I had absolutely zero problems with my back.

Keep in mind that I’m not a personal trainer and I’m not telling you how you should or should not do things, this is what works for me and what I’ve learned from reading on articles, posts and books.
For more detailed information on “how to train for anything and everything, anywhere and everywhere” I suggest you have a look at The World’s Fittest Book from Ross Edgley. It really is the best tool I’ve found until now and thank to it, I create my own training plans without downloading some pre-packaged/not fitting my needs online plans.

Till next time! Happy trainings everyone.