Peak & Taper Phase Fitness Goals

During peak phase training there are some general principles I follow as a coach when planning my runners. It’s very important to note that exactly how I apply this to the runner is very specific for each case and depends on multiple factors. If coaching is not for you and you are going to devise your own ultra / 100 mile plan or follow an ‘off the shelf’ plan I would encourage bearing these general principles in mind:

Peak Phase (4-8 week block)

High volume

Weekly cumulative miles are usually at their highest now

High specificity

Do more of what you are going to be doing (Endurance)

Moderate intensity

Ideally very high intensity work has already been completed (Vo2 Max), most struggle to elicit gains from such workouts now you’re in an endurance peak block.

Tempos (longer)

The short hard stuff can now grow into longer tempos (Speed Endurance)

Longest training runs

The longest individual runs are commonly done in this block

Taper Phase (1-3 week block)

Lower volume / intensity

Lower volume - lower weekly miles & shorter runs.

Keep some intensity - don’t detrain your speed, intensity is just held for less time.

Rest & mental preparation

Get prepared for race day, it’s nearly showtime.

Some Common Questions Answered:

  • What % of the ultra distance should be covered on the longest trail run?

    Although this is an understandable question, it is not a good one - and as I coach I refuse to answer it, not out of arrogance but because there is no rule to apply here! Long run distance has crept over from the marathon community where a lot of importance has been put on ‘the long run’. In preparing for ultras the distance of your long run is less important, it’s the weekly consistency that you need to work for. As a guide many successful ultra runners rarely run over 20 miles in training to keep high quality, but it’s important to note they may do events of up to 50 miles in preparation for a 100 mile.

  • How many weeks before race day should the longest run be?

    No absolute rule exists here as everyone adapts / recovers differently. Also some runners seem to need to run longer closer to their event for mental preparedness, which cannot be disregarded. This said, as a guide most commonly the longest run is normally 3-4 weeks out from the event.

  • What total weekly miles should I peak at as a % of the race I'm training for?

    Again, wrong question, a rule cannot be applied here as there are too many individual factors to contend with. The question to really ask is ‘how much volume can I (or do I want to) feasibly run and recover from without losing quality and remaining injury free (and in a relationship/job!)?’ Answer that difficult question with practical trial and error and you will have arrived at your figure, good luck!

  • What should I drop down to in taper weeks and for how many weeks?

    Some runners like to really taper down starting three weeks out from an event, others do better off tapering only the week prior to the event (and race week itself of course). This is for the runner to discover. Trust your training at this phase, no silly long runs or big weeks are needed. Conversely, don’t do too little, you’ll feel lethargic and tired. There is no hard and fast rule to apply (again!) but most commonly I see runners do better of high frequency but low duration in the taper. In effect lots of short mostly easy activity with some intensity and lots of rest (good sleep) around this.

  • What about strength work, do none or some in tapering?

    If you are someone who does regular strength work this could be included in your taper but clearly it’s no time for a PB deadlift! Most I’ve worked with drop it for a week or two before the event to grab more rest. If you have neglected the strength work during your training, then certainly do not begin it in the taper!

Good luck with your training! Print off our handy PDF sheet for a quick reminder of your fitness goals.

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