I hear many runners, ultra or not, lament that they just keep getting slower and they don't understand why. The most obvious reason (beside the inevitable fact that we are getting older) is that their training is day after day after day of slow running. Specificity is a key principle. You have to train long to run long. You also have to train fast (sometimes) to run fast. There are, however, other principles.
Tabata (or sprinting in general), I believe, has a place in any athlete's toolbox. Sure sprinting down a football field at 100% effort 8 times might not be the best interval workout to improve ultradistance speed. But just try it once and tell me honestly that you don't think it would improve fitness. Studies show that it improves aerobic and anaerobic fitness quicker than steady-state exercise.
Ultrarunning is oxidative, and it does require "training in the oxidative pathway." But the argument that some ultra-endurance athletes who have adopted the "Crossfit principles" are making is that strength also plays a role in ultradistance performance and recovery.
The strength that I get from sprinting, squats, pushups and other bodyweight exercises might not directly help my endurance. But will I be better off 19 hours into a hundred miler than my fellow runner who has done nothing more than run LSD? I think so.
Another aspect of this type of crosstraining is that it keeps running interesting. Go out for your daily run or even your LSD, but halfway through it, drop down and do 30 pushups, or sprint HARD up that hill a couple times, or run up and down those steps 5 times. Then finish your run. You are still getting the oxidative training, but you are also having fun. One of my running buddies today told me that her running was feeling kind of stale. But she also said that today's workout was a lot of fun. Which brings me to today's workout.
- Warmup Jog to the park (1.25 miles)
- 5 x 200 yard sprints (95% effort up and down a groomed soccer field) rest 30 seconds between sprints
- 50 pushups
- 50 squats (bodyweight only)
- 50 situps or crunches
- 5 x 200 yard sprints (rest 30 seconds between sprints)
- Cooldown Jog/walk back to starting point.
It was a little more than 4 miles of running -- about what we would normally do during a group lunch run. But it included over a mile of sprinting. And it was fun. And if it helps me run a better ultra, then that's icing on the cake.