The idea of an ultra endurance cycling or running event can both inspire, motivate and overwhelm you. If you are thinking you might like to dip your toe into the ultra distance world try these three steps.

1) Break down the distance

Breaking down the distance into manageable and incremental chunks is a good way to approach training. A good way to do this is using mini goals or stepping stones to your main goal. You could break this up into 5 or even 10 stepping stones with a timeframe for each one.

Making your goals SMART can help:

  • Specific - having a specific distance/time target (with maybe elevation included if it is relevant to your event).
  • Measurable - distance (and elevation) can be measured using training devices. Time can also be a useful measurement for off road events.
  • Achievable - breaking down your big goal into smaller steps makes it more achievable so you feel less over-whelmed.
  • Rewarding - if you don't get some intrinsic meaningful enjoyment out of it you won't do it, be sure to identify why the goal will be rewarding to you.
  • Time-bound - you need to hold yourself accountable with a time frame.

Start with a distance or duration that you feel comfortable with and add a small amount as your first stepping stone, then build on that towards your ultimate goal. Be aware that it often takes longer than you expect to build the required endurance but you will be learning and building fitness, and hopefully enjoying the process as you progress.

2) Get a good base routine

The key to fitness building is consistency, so developing a good routine you know you can maintain week on week, month on month will help you build fitness more than doing some big training sessions less frequently.

It's amazing how 45 minutes to an hour two or three times per week with a longer session (2-3 hours) at the weekend can build fitness if you do it consistently. If you are just starting out you can build the longer session step by step.

You can detail these as process goals like:

  • Aim to do 3 sessions per week, including one longer endurance session.
  • Build up my longer endurance session by 15 minutes each week.


3) Key Weekend Blocks

Once you have your good base you can plan for key weekend blocks where you tackle bigger distances over one (or two) days. These are the key distances you identified in your mini goals/stepping stones in step 1.

If you have an easy week before your weekend block you will be fresh and ready for the challenge and remember to take time afterwards to recover properly. Recovery is where your body repairs and builds fitness.

Other Key Points

Do Something

It's usually best to start by just doing something, however small so you get an idea of how it feels. If you have never done more than run to the bus stop or the last time you cycled you were giving your best mate a backie down to the sweet shop just getting out and going for a short (20 to 30 minutes) run or ride will get things going. 

Do it your way

You might have some idea of how you should be training for a long event, but the reality is that the only right way is the way that works for you. So, while it's good to be informed and you may know plenty of people who have lots of ideas about what you 'should' be doing, identifying what usefully works for you is the right way for you.

If that means that you like to stop frequently to have a snack and enjoy the view/take a walk break if you are running then do that. If cycling to your friend's house in the next town for a cuppa and cycling back works for you do that. Or if you just want to do 3 miles loops round your own town so you can stop when you like then do that.

If you are stuck talk to a professional

If you are feeling overwhelmed or just not sure chatting to a professional can help. You might want to follow an off the shelf plan or get a coach to help you on a more bespoke basis, or just have a one off chat with someone. Most coaches offer a variety of options to meet different needs.


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Clare Pearson
Post by Clare Pearson
June 5, 2024
A professional endurance coach since 2018, Clare Pearson has worked with endurance cyclists and runners to help them achieve their goals. Clare specialises in endurance events, she loves to work with people to help them succeed at their own goals; whether that's a personal best, a completion, a podium or better emotional health. Clare will work with you to design a plan that fits in with your day to day life and helps you get the most out of each session.