Last month I ran an interview with former UTMB winner and all-round ultrarunning badass, Francesca Canepa, where she admitted she runs ‘as little as possible’ in training because – shock! –she doesn’t actually like running that much.
This intrigued a lot of people (myself included) so today I’m back with more details about what Francesca’s training involves after she kindly offered to dive a bit deeper into it with me.
N.B You can read our interview from last month here: Francesca Canepa: The UTMB winner who doesn’t like running.
Francesca, do you follow a set training plan or is your training flexible?
I definitely don’t follow any training plan. I tried to, in the past, especially when I worked on the 100km Road World Championships but I found it really difficult to stick to it. I prefer to be flexible and listen to my body and mind. I normally have one full rest day [a week] but if I feel I need more, I take another one.
How many cardio-based workouts do you do each week?
I’m not sure “cardio-based” is the good definition for what I do, but I try to do at least three “hard” works per week, but I don’t exceed 1 hour of it. And these hard workouts are typically intervals if I run or intervals on my bike or HIIT.
You mentioned HIIT training – can you talk through a typical HIIT session?
When I do HIIT, I like to follow some video on YouTube, just because I like to change [my workouts] and I like not knowing what to expect, or I follow my own DVD, in particular Shawn T (creator of the Insanity HIIT series) workouts. Here too, I don’t exceed 1 hour, and the workout normally involves lunges, push-ups, every kind of squats and so on. I like to work on my whole body because I like to feel balanced – I don’t like having weak spots.
You said you liked to spin on your bike. Is that indoors on a turbo or outdoors on a bike?
Of course, I stay indoors! In 2003, I tried to bike outside and liked it a lot but I crushed so many times that now I prefer staying safe at home. Plus, I don’t like to manage traffic, bad weather and so on. And staying at home saves me a lot of time.
What kind of spin session do you do?
My typical session is some pyramidal work, so basically it’s a cardio workout. 1-minute hard/1-minute easy, 2-minutes hard/2-minutes easy, 3/3, 4/4, 5/5, and then down to 1-minute again. After that I do some abs, stretching and take a shower.
Do you watch or listen to anything to pass the time on the bike?
I normally don’t watch anything and I don’t listen to the music, not because I don’t like it, of course, I like it, but because I try to stay focused on the work and train my mind to deal with boredom. I find it useful because I want my mind to be prepared to entertain itself during long ultras.
Do you practice any strength and conditioning or yoga?
I work on my strength when I do HIIT workouts. I actually feel like working on it more, but as I don’t have any good gym in the neighbourhood, there’s no way to do better. During the coronavirus lockdown, I discovered the benefits of yoga and I try to practice it at least three days per week watching some videos on the Gaia App. I commit to it because it’s in English, so as I’ve always been multitasking – I progress with English at the same time, I find it so great!
Does your training change or get more specific when you’re preparing for a race?
My training doesn’t actually change too much when competition approaches, just because the foundation of my “plan” is to work to build a solid body, never doing too much, never exceeding two hours’ work. So I don’t need to change before the race because it’s already actually minimalist.
You said you prefer to run as little as possible. How often do you actually run?
I try to run four days a week (races excluded) but never more than 8/9km a day. When I go out, I basically use running to transition from a strength block to another (for example 30 seconds of squats, 30 seconds of push-ups, 30 seconds of abs and so on). This prevents me from being bored and allows me to go out with my dogs as well. My oldest dog is 14 years old, so she can’t run too much but as she still likes to come, I try to adapt what I do to her needs. I like going with them because I don’t feel alone.
What type of terrain do you tend to run on?
In training, I mainly run on trails or dirt roads. I don’t like road running, and I don’t have any mountaineering skills, so I can’t go to climb big mountains. And anyway, as I am still a mom of two teenagers, I prefer to save time staying close to home because I have to take care of them. So I train in the morning and spend the rest of my day at home when they come back from school.
Does your training change in winter?
In winter I like to practice cross country skiing, so it happens that I stay outside more, maybe three hours, because I actually enjoy it way more than running! I think this is great because in winter there are fewer races so skiing allows me to build some volume. But, of course, I still bike and do HIIT at home! I’m convinced that always working on the full body is key to staying injury-free.
To read my first interview with Francesca you can click here.