top of page

How I Train For Ultra Endurance Events Whilst Also Weightlifting.

A little about my background and current training...

I train for, and have completed, a number of ultra endurance events in a few different sports over the past few years. My training history has predominantly comprised of strength training and olympic weightlifting. A few years ago I began trying to combine these within a 'hybrid' training approach, to see whether it was possible to push two very different ends of the training spectrum concurrently. This style of training has become popularised in recent years, whereby two or more very separate elements are trained for in a single programme. This differs from the more typical strength and conditioning based training for sports performance, where the end goal is to improve at the main sport by supplementing other types of training (concurrent training).

I was initially introduced to Olympic weightlifting through CrossFit, and found that I greatly enjoyed the technical elements of the lifts. This led to me pursuing weightlifting as my sole form of training when I started my undergrad degree, and I aimed to compete before Covid hit. When all of the gyms closed through Covid, I went back to running and mountain biking as this was the main forms of training I could manage to do consistently.

As restrictions started to ease I entered some endurance obstacle course races in the Lake District, Cornwall, and Wales. These all involved running over varied terrain, jumping in water, and navigating a few basic obstacles. All the time through these events I was still training in the gym with strength work, and including elements of the Olympic lifts alongside my endurance training. Since then, I have continued to train in this way and have completed an Olympic distance triathlon, various shorter runs, and a 107km ultra run in the Lake District, whilst also managing to snatch 90kg in the weeks before the ultra race.

In 2024, I set myself the goal of completing 3 ultra distance adventure triathlons in the UK, where the running segment comprises of running up and down a mountain. I have maintained my strength training, hitting some big PB's through the start of the year, and aim to build into some big weightlifting lifts by the end of the year. I have also entered to a 200 mile off road bike race in the summer to continue the aim of completing ultra endurance events whilst also increasing my weightlifting numbers.

Now you have a bit of the back story, in the rest of this article I'll discuss some the methods and considerations I have made to complete these hybrid challenges.

Since the beginning of 2024, I have been steadily building into the first of the triathlons. My bike volume has been high, with the majority of my training time being in a zone 1 or zone 2 intensity. These zones correlate to what can be considered 'conversational paces', something that is comfortable that you can hold for many hours. I have been running semi-regularly once or twice per week generally at similar intensities. My swimming volume has been low, but around once per week for a couple months leading into my first event in May. Alongside this, my gym work has been consistent at between 2-3 sessions per week. These are focussed on a few key lifts that Ive been aiming to build on, including some skill work for the olympic lifting and plenty accessory work for upper body and core strength.

My first and perhaps most important consideration in starting this training year was working with a coach. I often receive confused questioning when I say that I work with a coach, despite being a coach myself. I have worked with a number of coaches over my life and have also gone through periods of coaching and programming for myself.

For me and many others, motivation to train is a struggle at times. I have found that having someone to be accountable to who can also act as a sounding board for training ideas or adjustments to my programming to better fit my schedule and daily condition have been immeasurably helpful.

Whilst it is entirely possible to do these sorts of hybrid challenges without a coach, it is a simpler, more effective, and just overall better process of working with someone who understands what is needed physically and mentally to achieve your specific hybrid goals. Seeking out coaches who have walked the walk of doing similar things to your goals goes a long way towards improving the whole process of training for these goals.

Without this, I would likely skip things I don't enjoy, miss sessions altogether, or put together a plan that might not actually be as effective as it could be. Luckily, if you're reading this, all the coaches at Perma are well-versed in this style of hybrid training and have helped numerous individuals both in person and remotely to achieve some big hybrid training goals.

Don't overdo the volume.

The common tendency in hybrid training is to do too much of everything. You cannot effectively just mash together two separate training programs and expect this to work well for very long. We are capable of adapting to 100% of a training program, but if this then becomes 200% of two training programs, we will soon start to see diminishing returns and a lack of progress.

A big part of the hybrid training approach is understanding that short-term gains in each element will very likely be slower than if you were to solely focus on one part of the whole program. This is simply because you are having to divide attention and adaptive capacity from just one thing. Interestingly, this has not necessarily been seen to cap long-term progress with many individuals now being able to compete at a very high level in their two or more respective disciplines. Playing the long game here is important and as a part of that, we need to be very selective in what we choose to include and what we choose to cut from our training programmes.

I was able to snatch 90kg and run 107km only doing 1 snatch session and 2 runs per week. For an Olympic lifting program or running program in isolation, these are considered very low frequencies (how many times per week you train the modality). When we are trying to progress both simultaneously, this was a split that I was able to maintain consistently and still make progress in all elements with. So, my advice start small and build based on your adaptation. Ways to measure that adaptation can be in RPE. For example, if a weight feels easier than it did 4 weeks ago you can perhaps increase the load. Or as an endurance example you could use things like reduced HR for the same work, or even lactate if you want to get fancy. For example, if you run at a 6:00 min per km pace for a tempo run at 140bpm avg, and over 3 months with this consistent weekly exposure your HR has dropped to 130bpm avg, then this is a sign that adaptation has occurred. Meaning, less cardiovascular strain for the same pace. To seek out greater performance gains, you could then either a) increase the speed of the tempo or b) increase the distance or c) increase the frequency (add another session in). This all depending on the other variables in your programme. Remember, you should consider that programming is all about managing stimulus and fatigue in order to keep the show on the road. Consistency. If you turn up one dial, you may have to turn down another. You must consider training needs to be hard enough that we are seeking out adaptation but not too hard that we can't recover. This is especially important for hybrid athletes who have high volumes just because we are trying to do 2 things at once. For more info on how/where to place your hard/easy sessions article.

You don't have to be confined to a traditional 7-day training cycle.

Linking to the above points, and some considerations on the aforementioned article, trying to cram this into a single week can be very difficult. When you're trying to hit all the relevant elements needed to make sure you're progressing in all parts, trying to fit everything into 7 days just because it's a week can be difficult. It may feel like you have to force things but ultimately you're not confined to a week structure.

This method of short-term planning allows me to hit all the relevant training, to not get worried about cramming, and still allowing enough energy to recover without doing excessive volumes in any one session. Equally, I am still being exposed to the individual components and lifts regularly enough to keep progressing loads and skill.

Have a general focus, but still have priorities.

The general consensus on hybrid training is that you're trying to become a jack-of-all trades athlete. With the ability to turn your hand to any challenge or training type. Whilst this is fun, having such a general focus will largely lead to general results. The degree to how high this general ceiling goes is up for debate however (there are hybrid athletes running sub 17 minute 5ks, winning Hyrox, and lifting in powerlifting competitions). But specificity is of course still important, it matters to making meaningful progress in your strength or endurance goals. For example, If you want to get better at running, you have to run. So whilst my training is varied, I still have a few key priorities that I bias.

Having a few key lifts that I am consistently doing and tracking, as well as having periods of time dedicated to specific endurance disciplines lets me progress more effectively than if I was doing a random mash of general training. This is similar to one of the misconceptions in CrossFit programming. Variability doesn't equal random. Whilst you can still, even with random, see improvements in fitness, if things are too random, too chaotic, you will reach a ceiling quickly in specific domains. That is when you need to bias.

It is also possible to have broad long term goals whilst still having specific periods of shorter term focus into a few areas. Your gains don't just fly away. For me, this is to become better at mixed sport ultra endurance events, get stronger, and lift heavier loads in the olympic weightlifting movements. But this then becomes more focused into specifics at different times. Over the last winter this has been focused on building a stronger aerobic base with larger volumes of bike work and focusing on building strength in a few key lifts. I have still been including the olympic lifting, but this has been at a maintenance level just to keep the skill work present. In the last few months leading in the first triathlon, my endurance has shifted towards the swimming, biking, and running that are necessary for that event, whilst building the underlying strength capacity to keep me strong and robust through these events. In it's very essence hybrid training raises your baseline. It means you have a better springboard into whatever you want to bias.

Whilst this article hasn't explored any of the super specifics of how I have been training, it has provided some big picture things that I think about training for the challenges and disciplines I pursue.

Hybrid training has the potential to push your ability far beyond that which is traditionally seen as possible in very different and potentially opposing modalities.

At end of the day, unless you are training for something super specific, why not be hybrid?

23 views0 comments


bottom of page