Trail Running Training Information
Select from the links below (or scroll down) for plenty of information and advice on how to prepare for the Salomon Trail Running Series.
General details on how to train for trail running
General information on how to train for trail running
Compared to road running, trail running places different demands on your body compared to road running. Surprisingly, it can actually be less wearing on muscles and joints.
As with any form of running, cardio vascular training is important. You should be able to comfortably cover the distance you plan to race (given these are shorter races).
Importantly, if you’ve only ever run on road, shift at least some of your running to the trail. Get used to different trails, different environments. You’ll be surprised at how much more tiring it can be, as your body moves over the terrain with much more variance than road running.
Many road running clubs will venture out on the trail. For a list of potential clubs to approach see:
MELBOURNE: Vigor Running has 3 structured sessions a week suitable to all levels:
- Tuesday nights 6:30-7:30- interval work around Princes Park in Carlton.
- Thursday nights 6:30-7:30- speed and technique work around the Collingwood Athletics Track (under lights).
- Sunday 8am slow long run around the Yarra Trails, break into smaller groups to suit your speed.
They also provide coaching, one on one or group sessions for technique advice and video analysis. www.vigor.net.au/
SURF COAST: Des Poke of Great Ocean Fitness is running trail specific training sessions based out of Torquay. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Road runs are still good for keeping cardio fitness, but running trails will also adapt your rhythms. With road running, it is easy to get into a rhythm in terms of your cadence, your breathing and your mindset. While trail running, the pace and exertion levels change constantly, making it hard, initially, to find a rhythm. This makes some runners uncomfortable. There is a rhythm to be found in trail running, but it’s more about the natural rhythm of changing pace constantly and attuning to your environment.
You’ll use many more muscles overall when running trails. Your movements will be more varied as you constantly twist and turn, weaving between trees, stepping over roots and rocks, learning where and how to place your feet and shift your centre of gravity to remain upright while also maintaining pace.
You’ll also improve your reaction times and co-ordination as your responses get used to the constantly changing terrain.
Importantly it is important to build your base fitness. If you are starting from a low base, DO NOT go out there and suddenly put in marathon efforts. You will only end up injured and not able to run. Better to start off slowly.
Two suggested base-fitness building training plans are:
1. Running Three Times a Week: Start 1 hour 30 minutes/week-to-4 hours10min/week
Monday- 30 minutes on trail. Increase by 10 minutes every second week.
Wednesday- 20 minutes on flat trails. This run never increases.
Saturday- 40 minutes. Increase by 10% per week for three months at which time you are up to a 2 1/2 hour run.
2. Running Four Times a Week: Start 1 hour 40 minutes/week-to-4 hours/week
Monday - 20 minutes. Increasing 10 minutes every second week.
Tuesday - 20 minutes. Never increases.
Thursday - 30 minutes Never increases.
Saturday - 30 minutes adding 10% per week. In 3 months: 2 hours
To prepare for any race shorter than a 10km, plan a long run that lasts around 60 minutes. For a 10km or longer, work up to 90 minutes or more. Don't feel discouraged if you're running slower than you do on road; that's just the nature of trails. Obviously the more kilometres you get in your legs, the better – to a point. Overtraining can be more harmful than under training. Never up your total distance for a week by more than 10%.
Believe it or not some resistance and gym training can be good for the trail. We’re not talking bulging biceps and mirror posing here, rather high reps on lower weights, doing exercises that strengthen core muscles and some larger muscles like your quads and hammys.
Developing your quads and glutes through weight training and cycling (either on a stationary bike or mountain bike) will give you more power when running uphill and more strength late in the race. Also, you'll strengthen the ligaments and muscles around your knee, protecting it from torque-related injuries or sprains.
Step-ups with weights are good for trails where there are a lot of big steps, up or down. Some squats and knee raises are also good for general strengthening, helping your leg control for heavy landings and protecting your knees.
In cycle training, you can mimic running motion by standing up in the saddle when climbing hills. Mountain biking is also a great way to scout out new trails, as you're able to stay out longer with less effort.
As always, the best training is in-situ. Get out on some rocky or root-strewn trails. Take it slowly at first – no use busting an ankle. This is half about training the body and half about training the instinct. Your mind really needs to be in two places at once: a few metres ahead to know what’s coming while also telling your foot, hand and body where to place right in front of you.
You can train for agility off trail, of course, even in your backyard. The old witches’ hats are great for weaving and changing direction quickly. Don’t necessarily put that at even distances, either – trees and obstacles are rarely set evenly apart in the wild. Or if you have access to some old tyres or similar hoop like object, try the old one-two line-up army style where you rapidly put your feet in them, alternating, one after the other.
A good trail racer possesses two forms of speed: leg speed and trail speed. Alternate the following two types of speed-training sessions every week as you prepare for your trail race:
Leg speed: the flat-out turnover of your legs, best developed on the track, not the trail. You'll increase stride efficiency, sense of pace and anaerobic threshold by doing a weekly set of 6 to 8 x 400 meters or 3 to 4 x 800 metres at slightly faster than race pace. If the track just isn't your bag, try doing some hill work. Start with 4 to 6 repeats of a 200- to 400-metre hill, eventually working up to 8 or 10.
Trail speed: is the ability to run at race pace over varying terrain. This is best accomplished with a 30- to 45-minute fartlek run on a trail that's not too rugged. The term fartlek, or "speed play," was coined by the Swedes to describe speedwork on trails. It involves alternating your speed in bursts over varying distances (or better for different, set time periods). i.e. fast/1 minute, slow/2 minutes, medium/five minutes, fast/two minutes, medium/five minutes, fast/30 seconds, slow/five minutes...and so on. )
Make it fun: sprint from tree to tree. Run fast up a hill and jog the backside, or vice versa. There are no rules to fartlek workouts, only that you should push hard playfully. You'll work hard, but it won't feel like it. And you'll learn a lot about trail running in the process.
The key to a lot of trail running is to stay light and nimble on your feet – as though you are floating over the terrain, only touching down for a bit of spring.
As you spring from side to side or up and down larger steps, resist the tendency to favour one leg over the other. A lot of runners start using one leg as the ‘plant’ leg to land heavily on and the other as the ‘drive’ or ‘push-off’ leg. Each leg should do these actions interchangeably.
Downhills: run on the balls of your feet, not on your heels. This means less pounding, more speed and greater control.
Uphills: Shorten your stride, and keep your head up and chest forward. Run relaxed and try to find a rhythm that will take you up and over each hill with relative ease. Some trail runners don’t even run up a sever incline – as you actually waste more energy trying to bound vertically up and don’t necessarily go any faster than if you didn’t bounce and just power walked up.
Corners: To a greater extent than on the roads, trails offer the chance to round a corner and "hide." Practice bursts of speed when turning corners. Competitors won't see you accelerate, and will experience a mental letdown when they see you've "gapped" them. Include this manoeuvre as a regular part of your fartlek workout.
Streams: It's possible to cross a stream while barely wetting your feet. All you have to do is high-step across as quickly as possible, allowing your feet to touch down only for a fraction of a second. Try it. And don't be afraid to run right through a stream. Too many competitors lose time by halting at the edge of a stream midrace.
Different trails throw up different obstacles to running, here are a few along with tips for navigating them:
Forest paths. The most common on Salomon Trail Running Series courses (for now!). Beautiful as they are, they can also be covered with leaves that hide tripping hazards such as rocks, roots and holes. Forested areas also tend to retain moisture, so trails can be slick. Pay close attention to foot placement and enjoy the weaving.
Mud. It’s the most fun aspect for some, but an annoyance for others. Still, it’s a basic component of trail running especially in winter. Given the Salomon Series is on established and well maintained trails, there won’t be much more than a puddle for you, but if there is, remember that there's a greater chance of slipping, and mud tends to stick to your shoes, making them heavy. So look closely and react. Shiny mud is invariably wet and liable to suck you in. Mud with a dull appearance is usually firmer and faster to run on.
Rocky terrain. Step lively, using a higher leg lift to avoid tripping. Concentrate hard and choose footing carefully to keep from twisting your ankle. Better to slow down than to rush and roll an ankle. There will be the odd bit of rocky ground in the Series, but nothing too technical.
Sand. There’s not so much, if any of this in the series, but if you do hit a patch – or you train on some, remember that it is never easy to run on, especially when the weather's been hot and dry and the sand is dry and loose. An experienced trail runner often flits down a sandy trail, bounding from one line to another (as opposed to running in a straight line), always searching for the firmest footing. Look for the hardest-packed sand – often someone else’s footprint – or try to go for the very edge of the trail.
Wear trail shoes. The better grip, stability and protection benefit you. Also, wear shoes you’ve already been running in – new shoes area no-no. See our EQUIPMENT page.
Start slowly. Yes, there’s whole bunch of people trying to squeeze onto a skinny trail not too far from the start line – it’s enough to make you sprint. Don't. This will only send you into oxygen debt and sap energy you'll need later in the race. Save it and slowly overtake as you hit your rhythm (and the sprinters tire and fall back!).
Stay relaxed. As the race progresses, you'll find a rhythm. Not like a metronome road rhythm where it’s an exact cadence – trail running rhythm is more about being attuned to the environment and the change in pace and stride is all a part of that rhythm, rather than a circuit breaker of it . It’s just a different mindset.
Have fun. Remember to admire what you’re running through. Breathe deep. Suck it in. Trail running is the most natural form of running. Get hippy: connect with nature.
Nutrition is just as important as your physical training, below are some well known facts to have you feeling your best on the start line.
It’s essential to stay hydrated. You’re well hydrated if your urine is pale to clear before the race. There will be a water station on the longer courses at the Salomon Trail Running Series. Did you know that by losing just 2 percent of your body fluids can lead to dehydration, which decreases physical and mental performance, and makes you feel like you’re working twice as hard as you are!
Eating right during training and especially in the week of the event is vital in allowing you to perform at your highest level. Give your diet some thought before race day to what works for you as you don’t want and upset stomach, stitches or low energy levels on the day or in training. It’s also recommended to eat a low-fat, carbohydrate-rich meal the night before the event and at least 2 hours prior to the race to ensure your muscle glycogen (the energy reserves stored in your muscles) is topped up. That may mean getting up early to eat and hydrate.
Good pre-race dinner meals include:
> Pasta with tomato-based sauce
> Rice based meals or Risotto
Good pre-race morning meals include:
> Cereal or porridge with low-fat milk
> Toast or muffin with honey, jam, marmalade or vegemite
> Sandwich with banana and honey
> Sports bar
Dextro Energy products for trail running
Carb Bars – If you like long distance running, chances are you pack in a weekly long run or have aspirations to do a marathon (or ultra!). For lower intensity, long races/sessions you need some slow-release energy. Made with tapioca and oats, Dextro Energy Carbohydrate Bars are lower GI to keep you full longer, and keep your energy levels even. Perfect for that long trail run.
LOOK FOR THESE ON COURSE
Tabs – Dextro Energy Sports Tabs are a distance runners’ best friend. They contain lots of magnesium to prevent cramping, and are made from pure dextrose for an almost instant energy surge, direct to the bloodstream. Pop a few in your mouth every few kilometres, or chew half a pack if you are feeling flat.
Gels – Dextro Energy Liquid Gels are perfect for running. The fluid, almost water-like consistency means you can drink it down easily without the need for water. Dextro Energy Liquid Gels deliver essential carbs, much quicker. The resealable, screw top pack means you don’t have to drink it all in one go - and it won’t make a mess. Tuck one in your pocket, or empty a few into a flask or fuel belt. Take one for a 10km, take 20 for an ultra!
Isotonic – Dextro Energy Isotonic Drink will give you the maximum energy possible without slowing your fluid absorption. Considering most trail runs are in winter, you will not sweat as much, but still require those calories. Dextro Energy Isotonic drink delivers exactly what you need. . Contains important minerals that are lost during sweating.
Carbo Mineral Drink – Dextro Energy Carbo Mineral drink is hypotonic - meaning it will actually hydrate you faster than water and still deliver the energy. The formula is great for warmer conditions, but that’s not all. This drink packs a whopping 50g of carbohydrate into one 750ml bottle, so if you don’t like to eat bars, gels or anything solid, you can get pretty much all of your energy from this drink. It’s no wonder Dextro Energy Carbo Mineral Drink came first in 220 Triathlon magazine’s recent nutrition test. It was ranked number one by nutritionists and athletes alike. Contains important minerals that are lost during sweating.
LOOK FOR IT ON COURSE
After Sports – If you want to get back into training as quickly as possible you will need to give your body what it needs to recover. That’s an ideal ratio of carbohydrates to protein (3:1), delivered rapidly. Dextro Energy After Sports has all bases covered. It imparts 30g of carbs and 10g protein, all in one convenient sachet that you can put in your bottle within minutes of finishing your race.
There are plenty of easy, non technical trails within reach of most households in suburban Melbourne. The banks of the Yarra, from inner city stretching all the way out to Warrandyte, are fertile ground for trail running (lucky those who live in the north east). Other options of varying quality include:
Yarra Bend and Yarra River – lots of trails on offer here from short loops to longer stretches linking some single track section all the way along the Yarra.
Westgate Park – short loops only
Banksia Park, Bulleen – short loops
Westerfolds Park, Templestowe – loops
Plenty Gorge Park – some great loops in a surprisingly beautiful pocket of nature up north
Yarra Flats, Bulleen – part of the Yarra Trail, can link to Westerfolds Park.
Warrandyte State Park – riverside again, but pretty wild for an urban area
Lysterfield Park – some awesome single track, watch for mountain bikers.
Braeside Park, Braeside – short loops
Mullum Mullum – those entrenched in the eastern suburbs around Ringwood can check out the odd trail around the Mullum Mullum Eastlink Tunnel – Hillcrest Reserve through to Yarran Dheran. Not all dirt, but trees at least. Ignore the sound of traffic.
Dandenong Valley Parklands – longer stuff in a corridor of green from Boronia Road to Wellington Road in the south, includes Jells Park, Nortons Park & Shepherds Bush among others - easy to get in some longer stuff here flat as it is.
Dandenong National Park incl Sherbrooke Forest, Thousand Steps (busy) – a plethora of choices, long or short, hilly and all stunning
Karkarook Park, Moorabbin – you can make up about 6km of loop running (Melways map 78 E7)
Smiths Gully/St Andrews/Kinglake area – an abundance of choices as the suburbs peter out and real bush begins.
The Bay Trails – anyone heading Brighton way and south can link up a few trails on the bay, with sections of dirt found hugging waterside from South Road all the way to Mordialloc – you can also then go inland along the river and hook into the Edithvale-Seaford Wetlands. Okay, this is desperate trail running, but any dirt in a storm..
Mornington Peninsula National Park – plenty of options including the Two Bays Walking Trail, Mornington Peninsula; so good it has its own trail running race!
Arthurs Seat National Park – some hilly stuff, views and good loops everywhere. Part of the Two Bays Trail linking to Mornington National Park.
Langwarrin Flora and Fauna Reserve, near Frankston - longer loops
The Pines Flora and Fauna Reserve, near Frankston – heathland loops
Maribyrnong Valley Park – including Brimbank Park, Greenvale Reservoir and Horseshoe Bend Farm; lots of loops
You Yangs – lots of hills, plenty of longer trails (there’s a trail running festival held here!)
Woodlands Historic Park, via Tullamarine – flat but worth a crack
Cheetham Wetlands/Point Cook Coastal Park, Altona – flat but a few trails including those either side of Skeleton Creek and running north east behind Altona Meadows to Truganina and Doug Grant Reserves.
Williamstown – has a good trail from the main street west heading to Altona Coastal Park. You can link up and run (not all trail mind you) past Seaholme and into the Cheetham Wetlands area.