Ryan Sandes
Photo Credit: Supplied

Ryan Sandes shares insights into his approach to training for the 13 Peaks Challenge and trail running in general.


South Africa (21 February 2024) – South African trail-running ace and Red Bull athlete, Ryan Sandes continues to motivate runners with his ultra-trail achievements, big expeditions and training methods. Something that has challenged and inspired trail runners of all fitness levels is his 13 Peaks Challenge.

The genesis of the 13 Peaks Challenge traces back to the concept of connecting cherished peaks in his beloved training ground on Table Mountain and the greater Cape Peninsula. Spanning some 108 kilometres, which includes 6000 metres of vertical gain, the initial adventure was a collaboration with close friend and fellow elite trail runner Kane Reilly. Despite encountering a setback that limited them to summiting only 12.5 peaks, the experience left an indelible mark. Fuelled by the enchantment of Table Mountain, the vision emerged to share the challenge as a non-competitive exploration of wilderness. The emphasis shifted towards savouring the journey itself, prioritizing enjoyment over speed or completion time.

Now, you might not be planning to run 55 kilometres any time soon or to even tackle Sandes’ famed 13 Peaks Challenge but you can still benefit from his training philosophies.

Setting Goals and Staying Motivated

According to Sandes, motivation springs from establishing dynamic goals that constantly evolve. “Having a goal always keeps me motivated,” he says, explaining how his career evolved from conquering the multi-day ‘desert races’ to hundred-kilometre events. Currently, his focus is on tackling ambitious and unique projects for Red Bull such as running across the Himalayas or circumnavigating Lesotho. The key for him is to come up with challenges that fuel his passion, and, that way, allow him to maintain his motivation throughout, and that is something every runner can use, no matter how small their goal.

“When you have an exciting big goal that truly motivates you, getting up every day to train becomes effortless—even when it’s raining or freezing outside,” he says.

To tackle daunting goals such as the 13 Peaks Challenge or the Ultra Trail Mont Blanc (his big goal for 2024), Sandes suggests breaking them down into smaller, achievable steps. According to him, it’s crucial to divide them into manageable portions and set multiple goals along the way. These intermediary objectives play a vital role in maintaining motivation and focus throughout the training journey.

Planning and Adaptability

A well-structured training plan that can accommodate life’s unpredictability and the time-starved age we’re living in ensures consistent progress. According to Sandes, the plan doesn’t have to be overly rigid but emphasises the need for flexibility.

“By anticipating potential obstacles and having backup plans in place, setbacks can be navigated more smoothly,” he says, adding that if you miss a session it doesn’t mean that your programme has failed.

Focussed Training

Training specificity is another key aspect for Sandes. He tailors his training regimen based on the specific challenges presented by each race or expedition project, whether it’s related to terrain, weather conditions or distance.

“The closer you get to your goal, the more specific your training should be. And as you move away from your goal, you can devote more attention to improving your weaknesses,” he says.

Even elite athletes have off days when they feel less motivated or energised.

Sandes acknowledges the ups and downs but stresses the importance of being accountable. “The main aim is to always be ready at the starting line, knowing that I’ve put in my best efforts to get there,” he says. Following a routine, joining a training group or a coach can provide the necessary support to overcome challenging days.

Some Basic Tips for Beginners

For those just starting their fitness journey, Sandes suggests taking small steps, celebrating small achievements and gradually building momentum. He also emphasizes the need for patience.

“Take it slow, be patient and don’t forget to celebrate those little victories,” he advises.

Sandes also encourages beginners not to be too strict with themselves and leave room for enjoyment and rewards.

For Ryan Sandes trail running is a way of life characterized by passion, adaptability and an unwavering commitment to personal growth. On top of it all, though he is super focused on achieving his goals, if you are planning some fitness goals this year, or are perhaps looking at tackling the 13 Peaks Challenge, you can learn a lot from him.

Photo Credit: Supplied

Sources: Ryan Sandes
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About the Author

Tyler Leigh Vivier is a writer for Good Things Guy.

Her passion is to spread good news across South Africa with a big focus on environmental issues, animal welfare and social upliftment. Outside of Good Things Guy, she is an avid reader and lover of tea.

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