Episode 4. How to get started in Ultra Marathon running with Gabriel Ribeiro

how to get started in ultra marathon running with Gabriel Ribeiro

Today I interview Gabriel Ribeiro of Gravity Fitness, to talk about how to prepare for your first Ultra Marathon.  We talk about preparation, food, recovery and how great it can be with a team.

Gravity Fitness is a fitness class developed by personal trainer, Gabriel Ribeiro. After years of successfully training clients using his health and fitness regime G-ABS, Gabriel created Gravity Fitness to help build agility training, strengthening and movement into the training regime of his clients. Gravity Fitness has the vision of evolving clients, no matter what level of fitness they are at, into mobile and functional beings able to carry themselves with great posture, free of injuries and able to perform body weight tasks.


  • What exactly is ultra marathon running and what is so appealing about it?
  • How is it different to prepare for an ultra marathon to a normal marathon?
  • Can you tell us a bit about the how you get teams together to run and what do you do as a trainer?
  • What kind of diet do you follow in both the lead up and during the Ultra Marathon?
  • What kind of things go through your mind when you’re running an ultra marathon? What is the idea mindset, and what is the actual mindset that creeps in?
  • What does the UM do to your body? Blisters, fatigue, aches etc. How do you recover?

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Episode Transcript

How to get started in ultra-marathon running with Gabriel Riberio

Jill Lister  00:00

Welcome to the Fit Chick health coach podcast. I’m your host, Jill Lister Martin. Join me as I help women up level their lives through food and fitness, interviewing experts deep diving into my own adventures and finding a balance between motherhood life and a sweet tooth for licorice and wine. Because let’s face it, life is messy and sometimes a little bit overwhelming. Fit chick is about finding that balance and inspiring women by giving them the tools to take control of their own health and feel amazing. Let’s get started. Hi, today, I’m lucky enough to have Gabriel Ribeiro with me and we’re going to be talking about ultra-marathon running, which is something far behind anything that I could imagine doing. Gabriel is a keen surfer, a bodyboarder, a snowboarder, bike rider, dad and has the Brazilian love of music, dance, and capoeira. He’s a personal trainer, and has a focus on being Fit for Life, which is feeling confident to be ready for anything that life throws at you.

Gabriel Ribeiro   00:55

Hello Jill. Thank you very much for inviting me for this podcast. Thank you.

Jill Lister  01:00

What exactly is ultramarathon running? And why is it so appealing?

Gabriel Ribeiro   01:03

So, ultra-marathon running is any distance above our marathon. So, marathon its around 42 kilometers. So, any distance above that is called ultra-marathon and I think the thing that’s appealing about is that most of the time the ultramarathon runs or events, they are all ran off road. So, they all ran forests, desert, mountain, beach, so you get to experience going to one place there with your both feet. Instead of going there by a car or helicopter or airplane, you just pick one place and go and I think the other thing as well is that you learn how to time yourself, time yourself means like take your time, find your flow, a bit like dancing you kind of listen to the music, and you move with that and automatically it’s kind of like this. I feel like if I’m dancing, so you are, but you’re dancing one direction, usually now you’re moving forward or side to side it’s just you have to just keep from rocks. But you’re moving forward towards that place that you want to arrive and that can be top of a mountain and so on. So, you just find your flow because if you go too fast, in a flow, that’s not your focus, you follow someone else, you’re distracted, you’re not mindful and then you get to be super fatigued and you might not be able to complete that.

Jill Lister  02:34

Might not make the end.

Gabriel Ribeiro  02:35

That’s right.

Jill Lister  02:36

Yeah and I guess you’d say being in such beautiful locations, you’d see so much more, because you’d actually get time to check it out.

Gabriel Ribeiro  02:43

That’s right.

Jill Lister  02:45

So, what’s the difference if you’re preparing for an ultra-marathon to if you’re just preparing for normal marathon?

Gabriel Ribeiro  02:50

Yeah. So, the difference would be that if you can, of course, if you don’t live in a fully urban environment, like over here, we’re lucky in New Zealand that there’s so many trails that you can go through. But I think if you live in a bigger city, like San Paolo, or Rio de Janeiro, it might be a little bit trickier and so, we’re lucky over here that you can go for a trail and go running and that makes all the difference because you have to be really mindful where your step is going, you have to be mindful with, you’re going to jump over a rock or anything like that, so yeah, I think it brings a little bit more mindfulness to it and you got to be more present in the mind, and you have a little bit of danger in a way so you’ve got to be mindful, otherwise, you can hurt yourself. While if you’re running on the street, you can see where you are stepping, you can be maybe a little bit more oblivious and it’s better for your joints, can absorb it better the impact when you are running off road.

Jill Lister  03:49

Yeah, not running on the footpath.

Gabriel Ribeiro  03:51

That’s right.

Jill Lister  03:52

Like you just imagine running is just one foot in front of the other. But it is such a different thing. Like the ground slips and there’s rocks especially here in New Zealand. Can you tell us a bit about how you get your teams together for this because I know that you organize teams?

Gabriel Ribeiro  04:09

So, my first team was a bit of a funny story. I wanted to run this run that was called the name of the place. It’s a one of the great walks in New Zealand. It’s called Milford Sound. I’ve been there one time in 2013 and I was like, Okay, this place is amazing, so beautiful and one of the Rangers came over to me and she said you probably can run the whole thing, just carrying one cup and I said, what do you mean by just carrying on cups, like cup because there is water everywhere. So, I left that and four days later when the whole thing finished, I went to home and I was wondering if I could run that one day. So then, six years later, like last year, I started preparing for that I was like okay, that’s going to be my goal of the year usually I have one goal of the year fitness wise, something that keeps me on track.

So, I started asking some friends wondering if they will be keen and everybody said, Yeah, it’ll be great to do Milford sound and as soon as I would say running, people run away from me, they would ask how many days and I said out one day, like 9 to 10 hours maximum, and they will be like, no way I’m not doing this, and I start getting a little bit desperate. So, that was already close to six to seven months for the event that I wanted to organize and a startup too and I was like, okay, well, how am I going to do this? So, I found some Facebook groups, I was already participating in a Facebook group, I didn’t even think about contacting them. So, I left a message over there asking, Hey, would anybody be interested in Milford sound running one of the great ultras, great walks in New Zealand, and it would be for time, it is just a small event, just very friendly and straightaway, people really took me by surprise, I had seven people already just saying, yeah, I will be keen. So, I talked to a couple more clients that were already running anything between 10k to 20k and they were super excited as well.

So, in the end, we had a team of 10 people, we did in the end, we just couldn’t do that at a specific place. Because of flood, we had some flooding on the day, three days before us probably to the Department of Conservation and they said oh,  we can’t guarantee you that you’re going to run. So, I have pulled the plug in, plug out and talking to all the other participants if they want to do something else. So, we ended up doing the hump reach track, that’s a little bit further, instead of 55 kilometers within 60 kilometers. Amazing, amazing place. Very, very beautiful, was amazed. So, it took us 10 hours and a half and the group was so friendly, and everybody got together and we all actually finished together. So, it was very different than the normal race or anything like that. Because everybody’s wanting to make sure that everybody completes.

Jill Lister  07:13

That is sacred, because I can imagine doing it on your own. When you talk about having that space they to get away. Also having that own space to just think that whole time on your own. It could drive you mad.

Gabriel Ribeiro  07:24

Yes, yes, definitely and that’s the thing, your mind can be your best ally or the worst and sometimes when I’m running, I feel like, okay, I’m running towards something, or I’m running away from something. In the past, I had some problems with my relationship, and I felt that was a very good place for me to run and to be able to clear my mind and sometimes the answer is not straightaway there and maybe keep running a little bit further. But at least gives you that space for you to try to find your answers instead of exploiting your partners straightaway. It’s a bit like meditation in a way. It just helps you to be present in a moment. You have to, otherwise you can fall down, you can injure yourself.

Jill Lister  08:12

Yeah and speaking of your family, like you are a dad, I imagine it is lots of hours of training that goes into this kind of thing. How do you juggle at all?

Gabriel Ribeiro  08:22

Yeah, so last year, I tried to do the bare minimum to tell the truth was very much like a willpower thing too. Because essentially, I have two kids, so Mariana now is four, she was three years old, and Santiago was under one year old. Past one year I haven’t been sleeping much I have easily been anything between four to five hours a day. So, to have the energy to be able to but I didn’t want to take that as an excuse for me not complete, but I wanted to complete that so much, I really wanted this for myself. To be a dad is awesome, like you see your kids grow. But the way that I did last year was I just ran one time a week where every Sunday morning no matter what happened sometime, we have women’s (Inaudible) Christ Church and I was like, you know what, I’m going to do this because if I back up today if, I say no I’m not going to do today then tomorrow gonna be another excuse and the following weekend, it’s going to be a different excuse.

So, I’m like nah, it’ll be no excuse. I’m just going to do it. So, I started with eight-kilometer run, was like my first run. I’ve done traveling in the past, but I haven’t done for a long, long time, I did in 2009 so to go and say okay, I’m going to commit now to these eight kilometers in the middle of the cold, I had to wear gloves, I had to wear beanie, I had to use like three layers, leggings, we usually carry a backpack with our (Inaudible) and water and some food as well. Finished it and we were like wow, okay, good. Next weekend another one. I had a friend of mine and client as well that was interested in doing that. So, it helped out. So, if you wanted to start, I would suggest you have someone that makes you accountable, it is like a personal trainer. So, it’s good to have a personal trainer too, even facilitated personal trainer.

So, I was running once a week, only on Sunday morning, no matter what happened 7:30 in the morning, and then start increasing the distance or start from eight and then 12 and then we did 18. Usually, I wouldn’t suggest people to jump from eight to 12 to 18, I would say, increase 10% maximum of your mileage every week, and then you’re going to be better off, I feel that I was very lucky to not injure myself throughout the whole year, I think maybe because of my mobility trainee and always focus on doing the exercise where instead of just go hard or go home, lifting up they have as a group, so it was more like focus on the technique and focus on the mobility, I did once a week and just increased the kilometers that I was running every week and then suddenly, I knew that I could do 48k, that was a little bit of like jump within 32k one week and then the other week I said, okay, let’s go for 36k, but we felt a little bit more excited. We miscalculated a little bit at bigger turn than we expected, it’s like yeah, let’s do it. So, it was very tough. I wanted to (Inaudible). I was like, I know I’m running over. I’m running out of water. I’m running out of food. So, I said to my wife yeah, we’re going to be back in five hours, it took us almost eight hours.

I tried to use my phone. I’m just going to call Uber. I’m gonna go and my phone died. So, when my phone died, I was like, okay, I see Ash on the top of the hill, there is a place called Red Rocks and I see him from ground at the top of the and I’m like, oh my god, I’m gonna actually have to finish this. So, I got to the top he was waiting there for me. He’s like I can see you digging deep to get to this. Amen, if I could but we ended up completing that, was in tears, was one of the hardest training. But I think one of the things that he gave me on that day was like, I know that one, even if I do physically five kilometers, I know that I’m not going to break if my water finishes, I know that I still can finish If I don’t have any food, I know that I can do it. So, although it was a hard lesson on the day. It really paid off. So, in a way, I’m glad that I completed that.

Jill Lister  12:32

Speaking of recovery, what do you need to do generally for recovery? If you’re doing an actual ultramarathon, what does that do to your body?

Gabriel Ribeiro   12:39

I usually use Merino socks on the day, depends what’s the weather, I don’t like leggings very much, but if it’s very cold outside, it might pay off to wear leggings, I use Vaseline between my legs because if one leg keeps touching the other one, or if your underwear is touching your legs or your shorts, Chafing, exactly so I use Vaseline for that, use Vaseline on my triceps as well for sometimes the backpack, usually backpack keeps touching, the stripe. So, I use that to prevent some chafing, chafing on my legs and on my feet as well. The main thing that’s going to happen to your body as well is that when you go downhill, you might get some black toes, but I was using a shoe called Salomon speedcross and was quite narrow for my feet so that didn’t work very well.

I was making sure that I had heaps of grip button till I broke the shoes and made the shoes a little bit wider. My toes really suffered. I didn’t lose my toenail, but it got black. The other thing is that when I come home from my from my ranch, I always drink coconut water. So, I usually blend that sometimes, I use chia seed, banana and blueberries and drink that straightaway when I arrived and then after I keep drinking heaps of water, I use some tablets as well. So, tablets, that has electrolytes, so I’m not too fatigued because a few times I came home after like five, six hours run, and then come home and my wife looked at me say here is your son, and Mariana is like yay daddy let’s do this and I’m like, Yeah, let’s do it. It like still fully recovering from the run of course the stretch is massive. In a situation like this where I received my son or my daughter straight away after the run, maybe I don’t have time to stretch that time but definitely on the night after they go to sleep. I just go sit on the floor and cross my legs and stretch my back, like childhood bores, and I have a series of videos if anybody’s interested you can put it here.

Jill Lister  14:48

We’ll put a link in the show notes. Talking about food, what do you do in the lead up to an ultra-marathon?

Gabriel Ribeiro   14:54

First four years I have been on plant-based diet on the day of the race, on the day of the event. I make sure that have plenty of food with me. So, if it’s a 10-hour event, I have like bag maybe like three or four handfuls of cashews that’s my go to. Last time I had some candy. Emergency one, I wasn’t relying on that. But I was like, okay, if anything happens that I can’t move anymore. I know that I have this sugar that’s going to go straight to my muscle going to become glycogen and I’m going to be able to finish this. I have plenty of electrolytes. I usually take electrolytes with me. What else? I usually take a cereal bar. I took like a peanut butter slab. So, I grabbed peanut butter. Literally put it in a zip bag, make a hole in it and (Inaudible) so it’s quite the high fat, I like that. Banana. Banana is like definitely my go to fruit when I’m doing this.

Jill Lister  15:48

Do you eat any differently the day before?

Gabriel Ribeiro   15:51

Yes, I tend to eat more carbohydrates. I tend to eat more carbohydrates. I do like kumara. So, I took a kumara actually before I was out for another event, friends, they were eating like some bread and some pizza and other things like this I was eating kumara. I quite liked that. Some people say pasta. Yeah, I do like pasta too. So, just make sure that they have some nice carbohydrates and in the morning, usually when they do the training, I usually don’t eat in the morning, just have a black coffee, and I go but on the day of the event I just make sure that they have some extra energy. So, I do have my porridge. I like my porridge and I have with fine milk and I have some blueberries or mango or banana with a little bit of cinnamon, maple syrup and (Inaudible).

Jill Lister  16:40

Is there anything else you wanted to share with us before we wrap it up?

Gabriel Ribeiro   16:42

For the listeners out there that are wondering how to start, I think that this podcast was pretty good for that. If you have any more questions, please ask me, you can find me on G-abs fitness or @Gab fitness on Instagram. But I think that go out there, discover the word on your two feet, It’s amazing. You’re gonna see a different view than from your car, but it’s quite empowering knowing that you can get there yourself with your feet.

Jill Lister  17:12

Thank you very much for today. I’ll put the links to your website and your Instagram in the show notes anyway.

Gabriel Ribeiro  17:18


Jill Lister  17:18

Thank you.

Gabriel Ribeiro  17:19

Cool. Thank you.

Jill Lister  17:21

Hey, if you enjoyed listening to this podcast, you have to come and check out reboot, reset raw, reboot your systems. Reset where you see yourself in 12 months’ time and roll out with a confidence in the new you. It’s my 90-day coaching program where we will take all this material and find the best way to make it work for your life. Plus, a little bit of accountability and support along the way. Join me over at the FitChickhealthcoach.com/join. If you’d like to hear more, please let me know by sharing and leaving a review. I will talk to you soon

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