All About The 4x4x48 Challenge That’s Like Ultra But With A Plot Twist

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There is something seductive and motivating about having a clear finish line on the horizon. Runners love good goals to strive for—and good challenges that help them achieve them.

That’s probably why a growing number of programs, training techniques, and events are attracting both new and experienced runners seeking adventure. This trendy program includes Jennifer Aniston’s 15x15x15 workout (15 minutes on the stationary bike, elliptical, then treadmill), 75 Hard challenge, Ironman competition and coast-to-coast ultramarathon.

One of the latest to enter the sports chat is exploding on social media: the 4x4x48 challenge. So we reached out to two running experts to tell us about the pros and cons of 4x4x48, then asked for a safer, more sustainable way to give it a try if you’re not quite up for it.

What the 4x4x48 Challenge is About

During the COVID-19 pandemic David Goggins, retired Navy Seal, ultrarunner, endurance athlete and public speaker pitched the 4x4x48 challenge. As he watched races get canceled around the world, Goggins wanted to offer alternative endurance “events” that individuals could conquer outside of the classic racing environment.

To complete the “4x4x48 Goggins Challenge”, which will earn you a T-shirt if you take part in the official program during Goggins’ announced date (currently on hold, according to their website), athletes must:

  • Run 4 miles
  • Repeat every 4 hours
  • Continue this pattern for 48 hours

Overall, the 4x4x48 challenge requires you to run 48 miles in 48 hours. For those who aren’t runners, Goggins suggests switching to another form of cardio (like swimming, biking, or rowing, for example) for 45 to 60 minutes every four hours.

For some runners, four miles feels like an easy shake or warm-up. For others, it’s the longest they’ve ever worked on. Regardless of how much or how often you run, there are several important factors to consider before deciding to give 4x4x48 a shot.

Benefits of the 4x4x48 Challenge

Challenging yourself with high-intensity workouts can be beneficial as part of a well-rounded training program, which should include adequate rest, recovery, and a variety of exercises, says Nicole Thompson, ACE-CPT, a San Diego, California-based personal trainer, wellness coach, group fitness instructor, and exercise medical specialist.

The 4x4x48 challenges are of course high intensity and high frequency. Thompson says the potential pros for the 4x4x48 challenge include:

Mental Toughness

Successfully completing this difficult task “requires mental strength, discipline and determination, which can increase your mental resilience and willpower,” he explains.

Increased Calorie Burn

Running for long periods of time at regular intervals can result in significant caloric expenditure. A 150-pound runner can burn about 450 calories during each four-mile stint at a 10-minute pace per mile. During the entire 4x4x48 challenge, it counts up to 5,400 calories. This is nearly double the 2,900 or more people that will burn during a four-hour marathon.

Possible Increases in Cardiovascular Fitness

“This intense running schedule will challenge your cardiovascular system, which can increase endurance and aerobic capacity,” says Thompson. Although adaptation and improvement usually occur over weeks and months of consistent training—rather than just two days—participants may see some improvement in cardiovascular capacity once they recover.

Practice in Time Management

Sticking to a strict schedule requires excellent time management skills (and possibly, a credible alarm), which can be useful in other areas of life, such as work or school.

Weaknesses of the 4x4x48 Challenge

It’s important to always put safety first and avoid pushing yourself beyond your limits, advises Thompson, which will only slow down your fitness journey — not grow it.

“To be honest, for most runners, the 4x4x48 challenge will have more cons than pros,” believes Erin Beck, NASM-CPT, Orange County, California-based STRIDE Fitness director of training and experience. “The structure doesn’t allow your body to recover properly and requires high mileage that the average athlete won’t be ready for.”

According to Thompson, here are the possible drawbacks of the 4x4x48 challenge:

Overtraining and Risk of Injury

“The risk of overtraining is high due to the intensity and frequency of running, which can lead to fatigue, muscle strain or other injuries,” says Thompson.

Sleep Disorders

Running a lot is likely to disrupt your usual sleep schedule (unless you usually get under four hours, which we don’t recommend). In turn, this can affect recovery and overall performance.

Lack of Recovery Time

With only four hours off, your body may not have enough time to bounce back, increasing your risk of injury and fatigue.

Nutrition Challenge

Remember that calorie count we mentioned? Eating and drinking enough water for 48 hours can be difficult, and inadequate fueling can lead to performance issues or some health-damaging ripple effects, such as dehydration or forcing your body to use muscle mass rather than energy from the food you eat for power. your run. (Don’t miss our full guide to what happens when runners don’t eat enough.)

“This is an extreme and very demanding physical challenge,” said Thompson. If you are doing a 4x4x48 challenge, “it is not recommended to do this type of run often or regularly. Always prioritize your overall health and well-being by consulting a qualified trainer or trainer to ensure the challenges align with your fitness goals and abilities.”

And be sure to run this challenge—or any endurance event—by your doctor to get their thumbs up to make sure it’s a wise choice for your level of fitness and overall health, Thompson adds.

Why Sleep Is the Limiting Factor in 4x4x48

Sleep is essential not only for optimal performance and recovery, but also for overall health and longevity. The 4x4x48 challenge made it very difficult to get the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep, and the snooze participants got was compromised and likely to be of low quality.

“While doing this type of intense running challenge over two days may not have a long-term impact on overall health and recovery, it can lead to acute sleep deprivation, which can have an immediate impact,” says Thompson.

Thompson explains that in just 48 hours, sleep deprivation can:

For those taking part in 4x4x48 challenges, it’s important to prioritize R&R as much as possible during the breaks between runs.

“Even short naps and specific rest periods can be beneficial for recovery,” says Thompson. “Then once the challenge is over, be sure to give yourself enough time to sleep and give your body a chance to fully recover.”

Our bodies have a magical way of slowly getting back on track after a night or two of sleep deprivation, says Beck. Because of this, it’s extremely important not to overload your system — and set aside time for an extra hour or two of sleep each night — until your body has had time to bounce back from the daunting physical (and mental) demands of 4x4x48.

Better Way to Try 4x4x48 Challenge

For most people, it’s best to avoid trying this type of running more than once, says Thompson. Or adhere once or twice per year, max. And be careful if you decide to do it, stopping if you feel any aches or pains and prioritizing that recovery.

“It’s more practical and beneficial to focus on a well-rounded, continuous training program that includes the right mix of running, cross-training, rest days, and recovery,” adds Thompson.

If you’re really up for a challenge, get ready and try one of these modifications designed by Beck and Thompson:

Beginner: Run 4 miles per day, 4 days per week for 48 weeks. “For a year, it will help you safely increase your stamina, burn calories, tone your entire body, increase your mileage, and support your cardiovascular health,” says Beck.

Intermediates: Run 4 miles every 12 hours for 48 hours.

Advanced: Run 4 miles every 8 hours for 48 hours.

These last two options will allow for a nearly full night’s sleep, plus more recovery time between runs.

Regardless of which path you choose, if you decide to try some form of the 4x4x48 challenge, “pay close attention to how your body responds to the challenge. If you feel very tired, have persistent pain, or notice signs of overtraining, consider reducing or stopping the challenge,” says Thompson. And if you complete the challenge, be sure to take the next few days off from training.

The point is on 4x4x48

The 4x4x48 Challenge is an endurance running event that requires no qualification, entry fee or special training. This may appeal to ultramarathon runners looking to increase mileage in new ways. But running 4 miles every 4 hours for 48 hours is very demanding on the body and brain, so proceed with caution and work your way up to that mile, rather than jumping right into it.

It’s also wise to take time to reflect Why You feel called to try the 4x4x48 challenge, if you are. Will running this way get you closer to your health and fitness goals? Or does seeing friends and athletes on social media lead to FOMO?

“Ask yourself: ‘Is this 4x4x48 something I can do to stay fit for the rest of your life? And is this a healthy approach to fitness for you?’ Your journey must be ongoing to be successful,” says Beck.

Photo of Karla Walsh's head

Karla Walsh is a Des Moines, Iowa-based freelance writer and sommelier who balances her love of food and drink with her passion for fitness. (Or try, at least!) Her writing has been published in Runner’s World and Fitness Magazines, as well as on,,, and more.

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