27 Mar 20 by James Elson

Running and Staying Strong During the Crisis

This week we have held two facebook live sessions just to re-iterate where we are in terms of the 2020 events season and what runners should be thinking about in terms of running and staying strong at this time.

This post could be extremely long and broken into different sections, but it if it is to be of any use as a quick resource to make things easier for our runners, it needs to be short and to the point. So we'll go with just the headlines for now and we can expand if asked.

From the Q&A's, people asked for info on:

- How to train for 100 miles during the crisis
- Ideas for treadmill sets
- Home Strength workouts
- Mental training and preparation
- Immune system supression as a result of training


The SDW100 is our next event scheduled for June 13th-14th, with the NDW50 scheduled now for 3 weeks after that on July 4th.

Both of these events are very clearly at the mercy of the ongoing crisis, but as it stands, 27th March 2020, we are not going to postpone them just yet. The situation is extremely volatile and with over 11 weeks to race day there is simply so much yet to happen. This could change tomorrow, or in a few weeks, or not at all - we simply don't know. The reasons we would have to postpone are obvious and the same for any organiser: possible addition to an NHS under extreme burden, a continued ban on gatherings, landlords/ authorities retracting contracts etc.

Right now, in the UK today, we are able to run once a day. For the next 3 weeks, any runner of any ability who is training for a June ultra should be looking to run or exercise for 5-6 days a week for up to an hour at a time - and that would be Gold Standard training for a 100 mile race which is 11 weeks away.

A training block for an event should not last more than 12-14 weeks, for any athlete. Because that is the maximum sustained period of training where improvements are continuous before a plateau would be reached and a race or easy period would need to be inserted.  

If you are entered into the SDW100 - break your training into the following phases starting from now:

Base training: 8-11 weeks out from race day
Build phase: 5-8 weeks out from race day
Peak phase: 2-5 weeks out from race day
Taper: from 2 weeks out until race day
Recovery: 2 weeks post race

Right now we are in the base phase of your training. You should be looking to build consistency and include variety. Speedwork should be done at the start of a training block for a 100, not at the end. You should be looking to increase specificity through a training block, so more volume and aerobic conditioning the deeper into your training block you get.

An ideal week at this stage might be (all of this can be done locally to you)

Monday - Rest
Tuesday - Progression run 60 mins: 15 mins easy, 15 mins at breathing threshold, 15 mins Lactate threshold/ zone 4/ 10km effort, 15 mins easy
Wednesday - Recovery Run: 30-40 mins very easy / 100 mile race pace
Thursday - 60 mins easy/ zone 2 overall with 3 x 6 mins at 10km effort with 2 minute easy jog recoveries in the second half
Friday - Recovery Run: 30-40 mins very easy
Saturday - Easy/ Zone 2/ Aerobic Endurance 60 mins with 10 x 10 sec pick ups working legs but not lungs
Sunday - 60-90 mins at race pace with race day kit on board

Total Volume: 5-6 hours

Of course ideally in time we would stretch that long run in terms of duration but far too many athletes are guilty of leaning almost exclusively on that long run each week and losing any consistency day to day. That is a balance which never pays off. I would rather have an athlete run 5 days a week an hour day, rather than a three hour weekend run and twice for an hour in the week. 

If you run a similar shape of week every week as above for the next 3 weeks you will be in fantastic shape coming into the Build phase of your training block. 

If you are not used to running extremely local routes then I would urge you to get the OS Mapfinder app. Which allows you to see all the local roads and trails around you and plan new routes that keep you within a relative stones throw of the front door. If you are not used to training alone, not doing 'training races' or running shorter loops, use this as a chance to explore those things and I guarantee you, that you will open up your running horizons. When this is over you may not want to do your 20 mile long run on the 0.5 mile local loop but the option is there to use that for other things - double days, speed work, back to backs, mental conditioning.


Many people have less recovery time available to them given the current situation. Front line workers may have none whatsoever (which is why we are offering those people exceptional cancellation options), those at home with young kids still trying to work may also struggle. However if you are someone who is now not commuting and potentially have more recovery time available to you, use it. You may be training lower volume than usual, but the more you focus on sleep, routine and eating as well as possible, the more energy and motivation you will take into your running when things free up again.


As ultra runners one thing we know for sure is that through tough times, we endure and return stronger. If you are finding the current situation is causing anxiety or stress - and that will be the case for the vast majority of us, you will find your cortisol levels are higher and associated symptoms prevail including but not limited too fatigue, 'fuzzy brain', fluctuating appetite and mood swings. Use your running and training to add structure to your day, and use these things to relax your mind. If you can get out even for 20-30 mins for a walk that is absolutely better than nothing at all - for your mind and your body. Relax and don't stress about training. The above plan if you can run it will give you the feeling of working productively and improving fitness and conditioning for whatever is ahead.


Just a brief idea of a few sessions we often presecribe as treadmill workouts for those who have access at home. These can be translated into turbo, eliptical, watt bike sessions etc.

Treadmill hills - set to 8% and jog slowly for 1 mile then 1 flat mile at a faster pace and repeat x 3

Treadmill HIlls/ Hike: 5' w/u on 0 incline, speed 6.5kmph. Maintaining speed throughout, alternate 5' at incline 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9 with 5' on flat in between each climb. Total time 55 mins

Treadmill Hills/ Hike: 5' w/u. Keeping speed at 6.5kmph, 2' at each incline 8,10,12 then 4' on flat. Repeat x 4 for 45 mins total

‘Michigan’ speed session – This involves no stopping or slow running. Run ¾ mile fairly hard (around half marathon effort) then ½ mile faster (around 10k effort) and repeat x4 (total distance of 5 miles). Include a 1 mile warm-up and warm-down jog with strides and dynamic warm-up exercises like butt kicks, fast high knees and skipping. 

Pyramid speed session – 800m-1200m-1600m-1200m-800m with rests/ easy jog of 2 mins-2.5 mins-3 mins-2.5 mins-2 mins, running the shorter distances at 5k effort and the longer ones closer to 10k effort. Try to have the second half distances run slightly faster than the equivalent distances in the first half. Include a warm-up and warm-down jog with strides and dynamic warm-up exercises like butt kicks, fast high knees


Now is the time to be doing some strength and conditioning work to accompany your running. With the current restrictions, this is the ideal time to get into the habit of doing these exercises regularly to complement your running. Twice a week for 20 minutes using just your body weight is a great place to start and much as with the running plan above, is gold standard if you can keep this up consistently. A 15-20 minute set might look like this:

Plank Hold - 30 secs
Side Plank - 20 secs
Bridge - 60 secs
Bridge Hold - Lift alternative legs x 10 on each leg
Clams - 15 on each leg using band
Squats - x 12 Using ski pole to hold weight
Lunges - 6 forward and 6 back
Press Up - Hold for 60 secs
5 Press Ups
Side Lunges - 6 on each side concentrating on balance
5 Press Ups 


For those concerned about immuno suppression through training please read this article carefully, it is expansive and informative. Everyone is entitled to their opinions and there are some very strong ones in this area. IN particular the hypothesis that training hard/ at or above lactate threshold might supress the immune system day to day (which is something we all clearly want to avoid at this time) has long been touted as fact, but more modern research shows that may not be the case.


Lastly, from Eddie Sutton one of our lead coaches at Centurion Running. Some advice on kit to look at using during lock down

As the gyms have shut down, lots of us are now needing to move our strength work outs to our homes. At Centurion we have come up with some great bits of kit which will help keep you motivated, moving, strong and further bullet proof you against injury. 
Mat - Providing yourself a ‘space’ to work on will help-both for safety, but also for mental focus- once the mat comes out the work begins! A towel can be used, but is more lightly to slip!
Kettlebell- go for an iron one- easier to grip and make you look really tough in the background of all your insta shots…go for a medium weight one so you can do lots of exercises with it. Anything between 8-14kg should do the trick. 
A TRX which attaches to a doorframe-This I reckon is  a brilliant way of at home exercising without the need for any weights…you just need a strong doorframe. Lots of videos out there of good exercises and also really good for mobility for those tea breaks between sitting at your desk for hours. Pop up and stretch, squat and lunge everytime you make a cup of tea or get bored during that conference call and you’ll be amazed how much better you feel. 
Resistance bands - again here are a million of exercises you can do with these bands (not just ping them at the kids when they head to the biscuit tin again!) you can also add them to your everyday strengthwork outs to make them harder when you dont have access to weights 
Ladders- this is a bit of a hidden gem for trail runners. Lots of us wont be able to hit the gnarly technical trails we love so much, but with a ladder you can still work on foot speed, reaction and look really cool (ahem!) at the same time 
And for comedy points and a great game for playing with kids (or dogs or both!) try these….
Tag us with your indoor work outs  @centuriongrunning and we can share all the great ideas and sessions everyone is doing!