By Helen Cully
So, you’re registered to run the Angeles Crest 100 Mile Endurance run this year? Experts who have run the race before will know that now is the time to intensify your training. But if you’re training to run your first ultra marathon, then it is important that you train smart, rather than train to excess and risk causing injury to yourself. The Addictive Nature of Running
Running can be addictive – the endorphin rush, the desire to see how far you can push yourself, the transcendental experience of beating your goals and finishing that race in your fastest time.  However it is important not to take the addictive nature of this extreme sport too far and risk damaging your body or damaging yourself in a psychological way too. There is a huge difference between being committed to training because you want to succeed, and feeling a compulsion to train.  Training to excess in a way that is unhealthy will not improve your endurance skills or your running times, but it could lead to a dangerous addiction to exercise  that will have a negative impact on every other aspect of your life.
Exercise addiction is a condition that is both easy to develop and relatively easy to define. It is characterized by an unhealthy obsession with physical fitness and exercise. Much like almost all other forms of addiction, exercise addiction is subject to a series of compulsions and an inability to give up or reduce the amount you train without professional support.  That doesn’t mean that everyone who trains to excess is an exercise addict. You can enjoy working out for hours every day and be completely in control of the situation, exercising for pleasure and able to take a day off whenever you wish without feeling guilt or other consequences that would be detrimental to your day to day life. However if you cannot control your compulsive desire to exercise or you find that you are training through injury because you don’t want to take any time out of training then you could well have an exercise addiction and need some additional support.
How to Train Smart
Training smart, then, is key. You shouldn’t train every day, as it is important that your body has time to recovery and recuperate at regular intervals. It also really isn’t necessary to have run a 100 km test run before you embark on your first 100 km race! Instead you need to ensure that your muscles are well prepared: running two long days in a row is a great way to prepare for this, because it means you will be able to experience how it would feel to run on sore muscles and tired fatigued legs (whilst simultaneously developing muscle memory of that experience) and also practice your mental strategy for enduring such as extended run.  It’s important that you are mentally prepared before you embark on an extreme long distance run.  In fact, it is suggested that a huge chunk of a long distance racers success is based on their mental determination to succeed, rather than on how much training they have undertaken. The most important thing you need to bulk up then before you run any race, then, it your mental reserves and ensure that your mind (the biggest muscle of all) is fully prepared for the race ahead.
Finally, if you’re running your first ultramarathon this year then you should prepare more than your body and mind. It’s also important to understand the route you will be running, research the terrain, and understanding what conditions to expect. Only then can you feel truly prepared for race success.
- “10 things no one tells you before you run an ultramarathon,” The Telegraph, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/men/active/10956220/10-things-no-one-tells-you-before-you-run-an-ultra-marathon.html
- “Commitment or compulsion? The signs of exercise addiction”, The Salty Runner, http://www.saltyrunning.com/2013/04/25/crossing-the-line-exercise-addiction/
- “The role of exercise addiction treatment centers in the recovery process” Project Know, http://www.projectknow.com/research/exercise-addiction/
- What is exercise addiction?” Healthline, http://www.healthline.com/health/exercise-addiction#Overview1
- “The top ten ultramarathon training tips”, Outside Online, http://www.outsideonline.com/fitness/running/The-Top-Ten-Ultramarathon-Training-Tips.html
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- “The medics known best: Ten tips for ultramarathon success”, Competitor, http://running.competitor.com/2014/08/trail-running/medics-know-best-10-tips-ultramarathon-success_110422