Trail-Optional Race Training
Trail Runner|November/December 2018
Trail-Optional Race Training

When you can’t train on the course, get creative in your preparation

Carl Leivers

Racing on technical trails is fundamentally different than racing on roads. Uneven footing, steep hills and tight turns are seldom seen in road races but are frequent challenges in trail races. The more you can practice these types of challenges, even if you don’t have adequate access to trails, the more equipped you’ll be on race day.

The ideal situation is to do your training on the course you’ll be racing but that isn’t always realistic. AJ Gregg, a chiropractor and strength coach in Flagstaff, Arizona, who specializes in runners, says to “get as specific with your training as you can, given your situation.”

According to Jay Dicharry, a physical therapist who specializes in runners and the author of Running Rewired, the first skill you miss out on is sighting and line selection. This is needed for looking beyond the rock in front of you while being able to judge foot placement. The second is familiarity with the kind of dynamic running that is required on trails that you don’t experience on roads.

These skills require more than just strength training. Richard Hansen, a Boulder-based chiropractor and head coach of the Roots Running Project, says, “You want overall athleticism, which includes endurance, general strength, plyometrics, proprioception and flexibility.”

The following workouts will help prepare your body for the demands of a technical trail race using the training environments you have at hand. The majority of them should be done on your “moderate” training days (tempo runs, fartlek and hill workout days) or on your easy-run days, according to Dicharry. He says to start gradually and be careful not to add too much “extra” work on days when you already have a challenging speed workout planned.

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November/December 2018