Trail running training requires a different skill set than traditional jogging or road running. In contrast to running on a levelled surface, trail running is all about working against the terrain and sometimes the environment. When a runner is training for trail running, there is a greater sense of being out there in nature, which adds to the thrill of the experience.
When running on the road, the important details focus on time and pace, but during trail running training the focus shifts to creativity with skill needed to manoeuver off road racing. With a runner training on trails, the gait in movement is widely varied all the time making it very important to have strong ankles, a steady core, a strong pivot point as well as stable hips for successful navigation over rocks and other obstacles.
Some expert tips for a trail running training program can include the following:
Include Hill Repeats during Trail Running Training
If you are serious about your trail running training program, then hill repeats are an excellent drill for building strength and can easily be executed both on and off the road. Runners can do hill repeats during any time of the year with a different emphasis at different times. During off season training, hill repeats can focus on high knee drive and be done with a lower heart rate with an intent to make the routine a strength component rather than a cardio one.
During race season, the same can shift focus on cardio by picking up speed and engaging in uphill sprints and uphill threshold workouts.
Make Fartlek Training Part of your Trail Running Training Plan
Fartlek training is a type of interval training for runners. This training plan can include running just above and then below the anaerobic threshold. This practice engages the runner by constantly pushing anaerobic boundaries by going over the red line and then coming back.
Fartlek training can be executed by doing strength based workouts and cross training indoors in the gym and then complementing it with functional strength while running outdoors on the trails. Since an effective trail running training program will require runners to engage both eccentric strength as well as concentric muscle movement when taking on hills, these training techniques can boost both uphill and downhill running.
Are Intervals Part of your Trail Running Training Plan?
Runners know full well that one of the hardest challenges of trail running is the sensation of their legs smashing during an uphill run. As soon as the pinnacle is achieved, the run turns into a downhill one where the same legs start to feel like jelly. And even before it’s over, another hill looms in front.
To overcome the challenge it is recommended to include such intervals into the trail running training plan. Depending on the course they are planning to run, runners can practice intervals that mimic the race course by doing short intervals that go up and then down a hill.
How About Tempo Runs?
To develop the strength needed for a trail run, runners can consider tempo running when they are training for trail running. Creating a training course that allows a runner to do a long run for about an hour and a half and then following it with a 30 minute tempo effort can help teach the body to cope with the fatigue of being on a trial and still being able to manoeuver around the course.
Cross Training for Trail Running Training
Engaging different muscles in different ways is crucial for any effective trail running training plan. In fact, exercises like lunges, box jumps, single leg hops and medicine ball tossing are all great ways to promote functional strength work.
During a race, when a runner hits the side of the trail at a different angle, they will need to use different sets of muscles. Here practice with the previously mentioned exercises can come in handy as they provide versatility and efficiency to the runner. Such exercises also allow runners to use different planes of motions and build up their strength in different muscle groups.
Experience Level of the Runner
While these suggestions can fit into any runner’s trail running training program, training techniques will also vary based on the experience level of the runner.
For novice runners the recommendation is to choose wide dirt trails or cinder paths. These trails are not really any more challenging than running on roads, but they are free of traffic and easier on the joints. Plus their porous nature makes them softer than concrete and pavement. Beginners’ workouts should ideally aim for 20 to 30 minutes with alternating between running and walking.
Injury Prone Runners
Runners who may be injury prone can work on soft surfaces like grass, dirt or woodchips. These types of trails are also easier on the joints and muscles and less likely to cause new injuries or aggravate existing ones.
Runners who have done most of their training on the road can take their trail running training program to terrains that offer some challenging inclines and declines. These trails can train runners to work on varying paces such as uphill and downhill giving them an interval like workout. Runners can also incorporate a fartlek or a tempo run in their trail running training program.
For runners already tackling trails, finding new and unexplored trails adds to the challenge. Choosing a trail that is at least twenty percent longer than their usual routes is a realistic enough challenge.
Do you also have some additional tips about training for Trail Running? Share them in the comments below! 🙂