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Endurance Training Tips: Strength & Recovery

We meet Chris Stirling, a record setting endurance mountain runner and triathlete based in the outdoor playground of the Lake District. With so many miles to training for, strength and recovery are a key element to success. We ask him about his motivations for long distance racing and the key factors to prevent injury and enhance recovery.


Chris, you’ve completed in some of the UK’s most gruelling endurance races including the famous Celtman triathlon – what is it about long distance that motivates you?

I came into the sport of extreme/off-road triathlon from a background in mountaineering/rock climbing and just generally enjoying being in the outdoors. I had started to do a lot of fell/mountain running and a bit of racing and had always wanted to do a triathlon. Then I found Celtman! This was the ideal race as it had mountains on the run and takes place in a wild area of Scotland. I just love the journey that triathlon takes you on; transitioning from the sea or lake to a mountain top, trying to cover the terrain as quickly as possible. Motivation to train comes so easily when I am just in the mountains pushing myself.

What key exercises do you do for strength training as well as getting the miles in?

I think with strength training it’s a very individual thing, in the past I have used the gym but I have found simple exercises using body weight to be the most effective for me. The press up done properly is a great all round exercise, combined with some squats and lunges.

To be honest though, since starting to do a little yoga combined with foam rolling/myofascial release I think I have found my perfect combination. I own four different foam rollers including BLACKROLL, each of which are differing densities and shapes as well as a golf ball, tennis ball and Sliotar (Irish Hurling ball). There is not a lot you can’t sort out with that lot, although it can be a little painful!

What 5 tips would you offer up for injury prevention and optimum recovery?

  • Get a foam roller and use it! I use a BLACKROLL 10 mins every other day is enough. Don’t be the one who owns one but never uses it.
  • Again I do 5-30 mins 2-3 times a week, not only does it increase your working range of movement but its also relaxing.
  • Never ignore a constant niggle. Most things can be sorted quickly if caught soon enough.
  • If you run a lot, try and get off road onto trails or grass if possible. The side-to-side movement and stabilization is strength and conditioning in its own right. I find that mounts in biking is the equivalent for cycling.
  • Maintain good form and posture, this takes practice but should be trained like everything else. Running drills are great for this. In longer races I have used Rocktape to help maintain posture when you start to get tired. Applied in the correct way it acts as a gentle reminder to keep things engaged and not slouch over.

Mental strength is also an important factor in long distance? What has been your toughest race and how did you mentally prepare for it?

It’s a huge factor and also one of the things I love. Learning to manage the huge range of feelings, emotions and the desire to stop is something I think you get better at the more you race. Doing so is a long learning process for sure. I tend to enter events that inspire me, so just being there is enough to keep you going, When I imagine being on the top of the hill and how good the descent will be, that’s a huge motivator. Each race has its tough moments mentally but just trying to stay in the moment is key. When things get tough I try to relax  by and remember how lucky I am to be able to experience the places and environments that racing takes you to.

Norseman springs to mind as a tough one, I had raced Celtman 4 weeks before and finished 2nd again, it had taken a huge mental effort to keep going that day and I had given everything I had. Going straight into another big, tough race so soon after was always going to be a big ask. Again the thought of how lucky I was to be there with my support crew and the beauty of the environment kept me going. In an 11 and a half hour race I lost two places on the final 5 steps to the top of the mountain, it’s the only time my legs have buckled when I tried to fight but it didn’t matter, I was just so happy to finish with my support crew.

What is next on your race list?

Next season I am racing Celtman on the 17th June, then a new race, Canada Man on the 9th July, so 2 huge races close together again but I cannot wait. I am also going to do the Inferno Triathlon in Switzerland, It involves swimming, road biking, mountain biking and an uphill run to finish on the top of a mountain. It has over 5500m of ascent packed into 150Km and finishes on top of the Schilthorn at around 3000m. Better get training but lucky I live in the Lakes so hills are not a problem.

You can follow Chris and his adventures through his blog.

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