How to keep ultra fit on a family holiday

Last updated: 23-Aug-18

By James Eacott

Summer is upon us, which means plenty of trail action for us ultra runners. The sun is shining, training building and races fast approaching. It’s a great time to be alive!

But hold up, there’s an event on the horizon which can either be an absolute gem, or one which can spell disaster.

The Family Summer Holiday!

Now, if you’ve planned well, then the family holiday may be right after your event. If so, congratulations! You can fully immerse yourself into the family and repay some of those lost hours when the trail came first. Plus, you can unabashedly go to town on the breakfast buffet totally guilt-free.

However, you may find that your family holiday falls within a training period. Whether you’re cruising Cornwall in a caravan or bathing on Bahaman beaches, you will probably want to keep some sort of fitness while you’re away.

Well, you’re in luck my ultra running holiday maker, as this article is all about sharing tips and practical advice to keep ultra fit on holiday.

I appreciate that some of you manage to fit your training around family, a full-time job and busy social life on a day to day basis. If that’s you, then you have my utmost respect and I imagine you won’t find squeezing training into your holiday too tricky.

But for those who struggle to find the time to run, aren’t sure what training is best to do and who tend to lose motivation once the ice creams start melting, this is for you.

Training hack #1 – fasted session

Despite wanting to keep some fitness, you’re going to have to cram your training into a smaller window than you’re used to. Fasted sessions tick a lot of boxes when it comes to holiday training.

Unlike at home, when you’re getting kids dressed and fed and facing the daily commute, rising early on holiday for a morning run reaps some serious benefits. It’s one of the best ways to keep fit, healthy, lean and mentally fresh.

Running first thing in the morning, particularly in a new location, is great for the soul, discovering new routes and trails.

Another bonus of fasted runs is that you must do them at low intensity. Bingo – no need to take the Garmin, no need to push super hard. Particularly if you’ve gone low carb the evening before (see more below), a low intensity fasted run will really tap into those fat stores.

It’ll leave you energised for the day knowing you’ve got your session out the way and can focus on the family.

Plus, you can win extra bonus points by picking up some fresh croissants from the bakery on the way home.

Training hack #2 – hello hills

Two reasons for running hills on holiday: 1. If you’re training for a hilly ultra, then you won’t want to lose any of that hard-earned strength. 2. If you’re training for a flat ultra, the gains to be made through hill sessions are extremely useful anyway.

Plus, if you haven’t done much hill training then the gains will be extra noticeable as you shock the legs!

The beauty with hill sessions is they can be done in a short timeframe and you can make them up as you go. It doesn’t matter whether you want to do long 5-minute reps at a moderate intensity or short, sharp 30-second efforts with a longer recovery.

The mere motion of bounding uphill will improve running efficiency, muscular endurance and develop your cardio system. If you really want to nail your legs, run hard on the downs too.

Training hack #3 – all hail the HIIT

We’ve all chuckled at Joe Wickes and his Lean in 15 escapades, but he’s clearly onto something with HIIT training. It’s not something you’d normally incorporate into ultra training, but when you’re trying to keep fit on holiday it’s a super option.

High Intensity Interval Training sessions can last just 10-minutes and leave your legs burning like never before.

Create a circuit, focusing primarily on compound movements – ones which use a lot group of large muscles, like squats, lunges, jumps, skipping and short sprints. Perform each exercise hard for 20 seconds, then rest for 20 seconds before moving onto the next exercise.

Go through the circuit 3 times for an absolute sweat-fest and lactic build-up.

For the next session, take it up a notch and work for 30 seconds and rest for just 15. These sessions are also great fun to do with your partner or kids on the beach!

Nutrition nous

  • Assuming your volume of training is lower, periodise your carbohydrate intake throughout the day. Go heaviest on the carbs in the morning, have a smaller portion at lunch and keep them minimal in your evening meal. If you can have a carb-free evening meal just three times per week, you’ll help your body keep excess fat at bay.
  • While you’re going light on the carbs, increase your protein intake.
  • Have a big breakfast – you’ll eat less the rest of the day if you fill up.
  • If the buffet does lure you in, be strong and have a plan of attack. Make a deal with yourself that you’re allowed one or two pastries as long as you follow this route to them: start with a big bowl of fruit, wait 5 minutes and have a tea or coffee. Then have a meat or eggs course, another drink and wait 5 more minutes. Now you can hit the pastries. I reckon by the time you get to them, you won’t be quite so eager to pack them in (or at least you should have fewer than if you’d gone there first!).
  • Keep hydrated. We’re talking water, mainly. Alcohol is fine, of course, but make sure your H2O levels are topped up to keep your body composition where you want it.


At the end of the day, a holiday is all about time with the family, enjoying some down time and shedding the shackles of daily life. If you want to escape the training routine too, then you should absolutely do so, and with full enjoyment!

But I hope that, for those who want to continue some semblance of training, applying even one or two of the above tips will prove useful.



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Date Range

Global - Virtual


A virtual race which can be run at any time shown on the dates shown, on any type of terrain in any country.

Suitable for

For runners from beginners to experienced as you choose your own course and challenge based on the guidelines and options set by the virtual race organiser.

Endurance - Multi-activity


An ultra distance race including at least two of the following activities such as running, swimming, cycling, kayaking, skiing and climbing. It may also include different climatic conditions (eg ice, snow, humidity, cold water, mud or heat).

Suitable for

Experienced multi-skilled athletes who have trained for the different activities included in this event. Admission to these races may be subject to receipt of a recent medical examination certificate. Check with the race organiser regarding entry requirements and any specialist equipment required such as a wetsuit, skis or a mountain bike.



Increase of up to 2000 metres with very challenging climatic conditions (e.g. ice, snow, humidity, heat or at high altitude)

Suitable for

Very experienced long distance ultra runners (min 3 years’ experience) or are doing regular long distance running (>50 miles) with elevation and conditions shown (where possible). Admission to these races is often subject to receipt of a recent medical examination certificate. Purchase of specialist kit is often recommended for these races.



Increase of up to 2000 metres with some challenging climatic conditions (e.g. ice, snow, humidity or heat)

Suitable for

Experienced runners who have completed at least 4 ultras in last 12 months, or are doing regular long distance running (>50 miles) with elevation and conditions shown (where possible). Admission to these races may be subject to receipt of a recent medical examination certificate. Check with the race organiser regarding entry requirements.



Increase of up to 1500 metres

Suitable for

Runners who have completed several ultra distances or similar events, or are doing long distance running regularly, with elevation shown.



Increase of up to 1000 metres

Suitable for

Runners who have completed at least one ultra in last 6 months or are doing long distance running (>26 miles) regularly, with elevation shown.



Very little change < 500 metres

Suitable for

First ultra event. Runners completing a marathon or doing regular long distance running (>26 miles) in the last 6 months.