Running has become a bit of a phenomenon in recent years. And the number of people leaving the beaten track behind and heading out onto the trail is increasing.
Trail running is a fresh of breath air in every sense.
As well as introducing you to nature’s best bits, your brain and body are pushed to new heights as you have to be quick to adapt to unpredictable routes conditions.
With new terrains comes new challenges, and if you’re keen to push on it’s up to you to train and prepare yourself for the wilder environments you’re coming up against.
Training for the trail
Steep climbs, abrupt bends, fast descents and uneven surfaces – the trail will throw at lot more at you than you’d typically face on the road.
You might have adapted to pain and burn from lactic acid, muscle fatigue and heavy breathing, but now there’s a whole lot more to consider.
Our first piece of advice is don’t be intimidated. There’s nothing you can’t prepare for…
On or off-road, training plans are really useful. As well as helping you see real progress structured training will help minimise any risk of injury.
So if you’re committed to moving your performance on to the next level, it may be time to make some changes and introduce new training routines and exercises…
Strength and Conditioning
Running isn’t just about clocking up the miles week after week. You need to be strong, mentally and physically – and that’s where strength and conditioning comes in.
Supplementing the other areas of your training plan with strengthening exercises allows you to drive more energy during each and every stride.
While muscle conditioning will help to keep you fit and in good form, preventing injury and improving agility for faster, more efficient movement.
With exercises like overhead squats, planks and weighted lunges you can target all the key muscles needed to keep you balanced while battling unpredictable terrains.
But before you start throwing weights around at the gym, remember what you’re trying to achieve. Do your homework and make smart decisions based on where you’re at, and where you want to be. This is about journey, more than it is the destination.
Put simply, cross training combines exercises from a range of different disciplines that have proven benefits for runners.
By performing other activities, like cycling and rowing, you’re building strength and mobility in muscles that running training doesn’t target. Spending time on these supporting muscles improves the larger muscles’ range of motion.
It also reduces the effects of any muscular imbalances – again, helping you to avoid thos unwanted, niggly injuries that have held you back in the past.
And let’s face it, long distance running can get monotonous if you’re not mixing things up every now and then. After all, variety is the spice of life. Different disciplines banish boredom, boost stamina and give you added confidence.
For best results, you should find cross training activities that work on upper body strength, core capabilities and flexibility.
It might seem pretty obvious, but your weekly long distance run is going to be one of the most important factors of your training programme.
Not only because it’s what you’re training for – to run the distance efficiently – but it also trains your body and mind to overcome even the most testing of situations.
Distance running is perfect for helping build your cardio endurance, and preparing your body for the challenges to come. But don’t go for gold in your first week. Ease yourself in and build up the miles over time. Starting training early means you’ll have enough time to adjust to longer distances and worry about your time later on.
Intervals are great for improving your running form and building up your endurance.
Intense energy exertion will test your body and prepare you for the physical demands of off-road running.
Start by performing short, high-intensity exercises that take you close to maximum effort. Then follow it up with a window of recovery time in which you almost recover. For best results try to keep your recovery times equal to or slightly longer than the maximum effort stints.
By applying this intensity to your training, you’re forcing your body to adapt and become stronger in order to recover quicker.
Your 12 week training plan
Introducing these exercises will provide you with the makeup of an effective trail running training plan. Just remember:
- Ease yourself in: don’t go hunting for the steepest, most outrageous trail if you’ve only ever run on road before. As well as making recovery extremely difficult, you’re increasing the risk of injury and making it easier for yourself to hate the transition.
- Run in trails not times: it seems like blasphemy to say forget about your time. But it really helps when you’re new to trail running. It’s important to remember that with the added challenges comes added time. You’re probably not going to run your fastest time, so don’t beat yourself up when you don’t.
- Focus on technique: incorporating a combination of exercises will help you build on your strength, endurance and mobility. So naturally, your technique is going improve. Rely on training efforts to carry you through the trail and focus on maintaining a good body position from head to toe.
For more help getting started, check out the 12 week training programme below or download your PDF version here.