back to basics: ultra run­ning isol­a­tion tips

Writ­ten By Sam Heward

Sam is one of the Ultra X Co-Founders. If he’s not actu­ally out run­ning, chances are he’s busy writ­ing about it (or plot­ting Ultra X strategy, that is…)


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23rd April 2020

The COVID-19 pan­dem­ic has meant we are all hav­ing to make massive adjust­ments to our day to day. The extent of gov­ern­ment lock­downs, lay­offs, fur­loughs, work­ing from home man­dates, school clos­ures, and sports facil­ity shut­downs has changed a lot about the way we live our lives.

If you are a run­ner, you can count your­self lucky. Yes, we may have had our races can­celled, but think of the gym mon­keys, the team sports girls and guys, and the swim­mers, for whom train­ing now means bench press­ing their sofa or mim­ick­ing move­ments with giant elast­ic bands. In many ways run­ning for enjoy­ment has nev­er been so enjoy­able. You prob­ably have more time on your hands, the roads are empty and it’s get­ting sun­ni­er and warm­er (even where I am isol­at­ing up in Edin­burgh!)

Of course, these aren’t the greatest of times. But we’ve got two options; dwell on the situ­ation, or take a pos­it­ive approach on it and see the oppor­tun­ity for growth.

For those of you who con­sider your­self run­ners, without the usu­al tar­gets it can be dif­fi­cult to find the motiv­a­tion to keep train­ing, but that doesn’t mean going into hiberna­tion. There are still loads of ways to ensure that you make the most of this.

For those of you who have recently star­ted (and judging by the daily noti­fic­a­tions I now receive on Strava there are a lot) it’s import­ant to not get car­ried away with your new­found speed so this piece is just as rel­ev­ant for you.

Wheth­er vet­er­an or novice, now is a time to get back to the basics, build that base and remem­ber why you star­ted run­ning in the first place. Here’s a few ideas to keep it fresh and ensure when this is all over you can come out the oth­er side fit­ter and more race ready than ever.

Get that s + c going

Every run­ner is guilty of avoid­ing it, but, yes, you are sup­posed to do some­thing oth­er than run. With the extra time on your hands you now have no excuses. Plus, with the amount of physio’s and gyms that have now gone vir­tu­al you can find almost hourly HIIT or Strength and Con­di­tion­ing classes for free via Ins­tagram live. It’s time well spent.

Think about form

Run­ning is easy — just lace up your shoes and start mov­ing at a faster pace than a walk. Sure.

Get­ting quick­er is easy — just run more. Sure.

What about effi­ciency? Hmm.

The bet­ter your form, the easi­er run­ning is, simply because you are more effi­cient. It’s easy to go out every­day and nev­er think about this. If you are train­ing harder the chances are you are get­ting faster so why both­er? What if you are miss­ing a trick?

Why not use this time to have think about what hap­pens with your head, shoulders and hips when you go for a run. You may find a little tweak can make a big dif­fer­ence and if not, hey ho, no races com­ing up, noth­ing to lose…

Cre­ate a habit

No com­mute, no travel, the pub is now at home. If you can’t cre­ate a routine now, you nev­er will!

The lock­down is an awe­some oppor­tun­ity to build a win­ning routine. Wheth­er it’s get­ting that morn­ing med­it­a­tion in before open­ing the emails, fit­ting in 10 pages before turn­ing off the lights or actu­ally stretch­ing that tight ham­string after your workout. The beauty of a habit is that once done for a while the activ­ity, well, becomes a habit. This is the time to get those things ingrained. Let’s make it hap­pen.

Remem­ber why you star­ted

With races can­celled the stakes have also nev­er been lower! You’re free from the shackles of a train­ing plan, so why not take risks and try new things… maybe even leave the watch at home (😱).

No races doesn’t mean no goals

Lon­don Mara­thon may now be too far away to think about so why not set your­self some goals to aim for from isol­a­tion. There are loads of tar­gets you can set your­self which you don’t need a start­ing cor­ral or a bib num­ber for, and even bet­ter, most of them are free. How about going for a 5km PB, try­ing to steal that Strava crown on a home seg­ment, invest­ig­at­ing loc­al FKTs (with­in run­ning dis­tance from your front door obvi­ously), or check­ing out a vir­tu­al race 😉


Many people have less recov­ery time avail­able to them giv­en the cur­rent situ­ation. How­ever, if you are now not com­mut­ing and have more recov­ery time avail­able to you, use it. Focus on sleep, routine and eat­ing as well as pos­sible. The energy and motiv­a­tion you build up now, you will be able will take into your life and run­ning when things start free­ing up again.


As ultra run­ners, one thing we know for sure is that through tough times, we endure and return stronger. It sucks hav­ing stuff can­celled. We’ve had to post­pone three events after months and months of plan­ning at Ultra X, and I’ve had a couple of buck­et list chal­lenges pushed back. How­ever, I’m per­son­ally excited about get­ting out of the oth­er end fit­ter, more appre­ci­at­ive of the world I live in, and ready for the next chapter.

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