Tom Evans weight training
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Ultrarunning

How ultrarunner Tom Evans trains for the trails indoors

Ever wondered how pro athletes stay in shape from their front room? We spoke to elite ultrarunner Tom Evans to find out.
Written by Rebecca Denne
7 min readPublished on
For an athlete who competes in ultramarathons up to 251km long, often in far-flung locations over lumpy terrain, it's surprising just how much training Tom Evans is able to get done indoors.
Redbull.com caught up with the British ultrarunner to find out how he's training at the moment, why he dedicates so much time to strength work, and how you can, too, even if you don't have a set of weights at home...
Firstly, how do you go about training for races as long as Marathon des Sables?
Tom came third at 2017's Marathon des Sables – his first multi-stage race
Tom came third at 2017's Marathon des Sables – his first multi-stage race
My coach and I sit down at the beginning of each month to plan the next three weeks, so we can balance everything. I think training is just a big balancing act; I know that there are certain sessions that I want to achieve over a period of time, so my coach and I break my training up blocks. Instead of using a weekly programme, we use a 10-day programme to give me a little bit more time to recover from the key sessions. It also means that you fit everything in and you can do everything over that 10-day block as well as you possibly can.
Everyone can find some sort of make-shift weight at home – so grab a rucksack with some books in it; some bags of rice; or bottled water
Tom Evans
So, talk us through what a typical at-home 10-day training programme might look like for you?
Day 1: This will be a sort of easy, low-intensity day, but quite a lot of training. So, volume-wise maybe two hours’ running on the treadmill, or outside, and two hours’ on the bike.
Day 2: Typically, the second day is when I'll do my fastest run and I’m really focusing on my leg speed. The morning might be something like 6x one-mile reps, and then the evening might be 8x 400m.
Day 3: I’m back to a longer, endurance day. I've got a turbo trainer set up at home, which is a great tool to train inside. I would do a long bike ride in the morning – somewhere between three and four hours – and then a weights session in the afternoon. My weight session consists of a lot of core and stability work, from my ankles to my hips. I also do quite a bit of explosive strength work to really fire up the main running muscle groups; calfs, quads, hamstrings and glutes. So I’ll do things like 3x 30s glute bridges on each leg, 4x 6 weighted squats.
To build strength and power for running, Tom does plenty of weight-training
To build strength and power for running, Tom does plenty of weight-training
Day 4: This is another slightly easier day. I run for 75 minutes in the morning and for 40 minutes in the evening, but then I’d have a really relaxed rest of the day.
Day 5: I up the tempo on day five and do a 15 or 20-mile run at marathon pace, followed by another weights session in the evening.
Day 6: This would be another more relaxed day; I stick to one run in the morning – somewhere between 80 and 90 minutes – and then the same on the bike in the afternoon.
Day 7: I would typically do one long run of anything up to four hours.
Day 8: This is similar to day four; so a 70-minute run in the morning and 35 minutes in the afternoon.
Day 9: Another biking day, somewhere between three and four hours, followed by a short run in the afternoon.
Day 10: I’d tend to do 4x 8 minutes at 10km pace or some 6x one-mile sprints.
You do a fair bit of weight training at home as well as actual running – how come?
Foot and ankle strength is key for when running on uneven trails, says Tom
Foot and ankle strength is key for when running on uneven trails, says Tom
I think a lot of people have the misconception that if you’re into endurance sports, you shouldn't be doing lots of heavy weight-lifting, but actually the lifting of the weights is important. A lot of people who run often say ‘my glutes aren't firing’ or ‘my glutes aren't activated’ and that can all be achieved by strength training. The more you lift, the more muscle fibre you recruit and this is vital for when you’re running. A lot of people think, ‘Oh, if I do weights I'm going to get really big like a bodybuilder’ and that doesn't happen – I can vouch for that!
But what if you don’t have weights at home?
Everyone can find some sort of make-shift weight at home – so grab a rucksack with some books in it; some bags of rice; or bottled water. Sometimes you have to think outside the box. A lot of the exercises I do, like squats, lunges or glute bridges, can be done using solely body weight.
The more you lift, the more muscle fibre you recruit and this is vital for when you’re running
Tom Evans
Do you do any kind of flexibility work like yoga or Pilates?
To boost mobility, Tom stretches regularly – and uses at-home yoga videos
To boost mobility, Tom stretches regularly – and uses at-home yoga videos
I do a lot of recovery stretches in positions that are based on yoga practices. So, if I feel tight in my hips, then I'll focus slightly more on hip exercises and almost manipulate my body to get into the position where I can feel the stretch in the area that I want to. I think a lot of runners neglect the stretching and mobility side of training, so I make sure I spend at least 10 minutes stretching before every run, predominantly focusing on my calves and hips.
Can you recommend any pieces of at-home kit specifically for trail running?
I’d say a set of Therabands, because you can just do absolutely everything with them. They don’t take up any space, so they’re good if you’re traveling, too. For trail runners, they’re useful because a lot of the running we do is on uneven terrain, so you need to have solid foot and ankle strength, and they’re perfect for building up those small muscles in your feet that then give you the stability you need when you're out running on the trails.
Some days your training is for longer than four hours. How do mentally prepare for that?
Focusing on the end goal helps keep Tom motivated during longer sessions
Focusing on the end goal helps keep Tom motivated during longer sessions
I guess I enjoy training, because if I didn’t do it, I wouldn’t be able to race. For me, the exciting thing is racing; I love racing and I love doing as well as I can, so I know that the harder and more consistently I train, the better my results will be when I race.
I try to get into the mindset of thinking how every session I do serves a purpose; knowing that a training block is building up to a race or goal – it’s like a jigsaw puzzle. Every bit of training should have its place, and it's just putting the right pieces together in order to come up with the correct finished product.
You use Zwift a lot for your training sessions – do you use any other apps?
I've used Zwift for a while. Training on your own can be really tough, so I just think it's such a great way to be able to get that bit of excitement from racing against other people. It's incredibly competitive so I’m really able to test myself in different scenarios. I also use YouTube for stretching videos and watch Yoga with Adrienne – it’s a nice bit of company if you’re not entirely sure what you’re doing.
How about music when you're training at home – yes or no?
Podcasts and Spotify playlists keep Tom entertained while training at home
Podcasts and Spotify playlists keep Tom entertained while training at home
I don’t really listen to it as much when I'm trail running, but I use Spotify when I’m training at home. I just make sure it’s really upbeat; I have lots of uplifting poppy playlists. I’ve just started listening to That Peter Crouch Podcast too; it’s absolutely hilarious.
Did you see that guy in France who ran a marathon on his balcony? Do you think anyone could do that?
Everything is about progress; you're not going to suddenly go from not running at all, to running a marathon or 100km the next day if your body's not used to it, plus you're much more likely to get injured. When you’re starting running, or you're beginning to build up mileage and endurance, then you really need physio and sports massage work. So, it’s probably not the most sensible idea unless you have accessibility to those things. That said, there's no reason why you can't set the conditions to be able to run, and you can; you can build up your core strength; you can build up your leg strength; and you can start doing mobility exercises.
I try to get into the mindset of thinking how every session I do serves a purpose; knowing that a training block is building up to a race or a goal – it’s like a jigsaw puzzle
Tom Evans
And finally, give us your top three tips for training at home?
Plan ahead; set yourself achievable goals; process not outcome.
Tom Evans taking home the win at the CCC race at UTMB in 2018
Tom Evans taking home the win at the CCC race at UTMB in 2018
Now read more about how Tom smashed his first hundred-miler and won bronze: