10 TIPS to improve at mountain running

Incorporate the following tips to your training regimen and increase your speed, energy and recovery within a short period of time. Be healthy & a well-rounded mountain runner!
Breathing: very important to focus on exhaling every 3 steps or so, especially when ascending or running at higher intensity. It helps regularized breathing pattern, maintain a steadier heart beat and get ride of toxins in the lungs – especially at higher altitudes.

Pacing for the trail: being consistent is the key to save energy – muscularly and cardiovascularly, and promotes good form. Maintain quick leg turn-over, a steady pace for your own fitness and focussing on not speeding-up or slowing down on and off throughout the workout. When the trail gets steeper, reduce stride length and keep legs moving quickly.

Frequency: frequency of runs better predict race times and quicker fitness than any other variables. A minimum of four workouts per week is best to gain speed and endurance for the distance. It’s more beneficial to train more days per week with shorter runs, keeping a longer run for the weekend, versus 2-3 runs per week at slow pace.

Variation: each workout should have a specific objective, easy and harder days. Economy workouts helps sharpening speed while building leg strength and stamina. Vertical training gives resistance for the climbs and a power cardio for the demanding terrain. Longer, moderate runs builds resistance to fatigue and gives greater endurance – the distance becomes the intensity!

Training format: the mountain terrain is the chief measure of difficulty. The focus and main goal of training should be on time and progression instead of focussing on total km’s. Have a wide range of trail difficulty, keep track of improvement from trail to trail with time, total vertical gain and distance ran for each trail.

Vertical training: to be stronger and faster on hills you need to train on them not just run or walk them! Vertical training develops leg strength, cadence, alleviates the impact of hard running on flat surfaces, and greater stamina for longer and steeper terrain.

Once a week or every 10 days – 45min. to 1hour of various uphill intervals.

Downhill technique: the soreness that can be felt in the quadriceps comes mostly from downhill running due to the eccentric loading – muscle lengthening versus shortening. The muscle is usually weaker in this position, the fibers breakdown causing pain. Short quick step – reducing absorption time in stance, using arms for balance, avoiding over-striding and ‘air time’, will increase better form, and build specific eccentric strength for the descents.

When doing Vertical training – also add downhill repeats to the list!

Recovery: trail-mountain running is demanding especially with the extra volume, challenging terrain and the impact on the body. Quality recovery is a necessity to stay fit, injury free and to maintain good energy from day to day. Two days off in a row, eating within an hour post-workout, healthy diet, spraying cold water on legs after runs, regular massage, quality sleep, down time off the legs, are a few examples to help achieve better recovery.

Injury prevention: running is a technical sport and can be demanding on the body. Take care of yourself like you take care of your bike! Work on proper running form with a coach, build a functional core, work on muscular imbalances, increase lower leg strength, ankle/foot proprioception, and power at the hips. More stability on the ground,, quicker absorption, stronger toe-off, increased control, and energy and eliminate your chance of injuries!

Equipment & safety for the trail: heading into the mountains for a run is very different than heading to the park. Temperature can change quickly, safety & rescue is not always around the corner. Always leave prepare, the minimum you should carry; 1liter of water with electrolytes, small snack or energy bar, cel phone fully charge, sunglasses, lightweight wind jacket, buff or hat, light gloves, and headlamp with fresh batteries. It’s not a bad idea to let someone know where you are heading and expected time of return.

Take good care of yourself and enjoy the trail!

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