Steps to Your First Trail Race

Mountain and trail running provides a unique challenge to those that enjoy competitive running.  You can race across beautiful terrain with fierce competition from other runners or you can just pit yourself against the grueling trail itself.  The winners of trail races are among some of the most elite athletes in the entire world.  If you aren’t quite at that level yet don’t worry there are races and runs that suit the beginner, but training and taking steps to your first trail race is going to take dedication.  Here are some steps to prepare you for that first run.

Sign Up for Your First Race

Your local running club probably has a calendar of events and you can find out when the next race is suitable for your trail running skill level.  Before you register make sure that you are in good enough condition to complete the race.  Try out the rough terrain to make sure you have the skills and then it is time to start preparing for the race.  If you are used to running on a track, treadmill or even in the city then you need to realize just how different trail running is.  Here is a closer look.

Have Clear Cut Goals

You have signed up for your first race, now what do you want to achieve by running the race.  For some marathon runners just completing the race is enough, so do you want to win, place or just compete?  Train according to what your goals are.

Plan the Run

Once you sign up for the race then you need to find out the trail you will be running.  Run the trail slowly for the first time so you get some idea of what the terrain is like.  How many hills do you have to run, is the terrain rocky or flat?  Remember that downhill running is more dangerous than trying to climb a hill.  Also plan ahead for the weather, running in the spring can mean a warm sunny day or cold snow.

Start Training

If this is your first run and you aren’t sure how to prepare for a race like this then you might want to enlist some help.  Find yourself a coach or even an accountability partner who can help make sure you are getting in enough training.  Discuss your race and how you plan to build up your strength and stamina for the upcoming event.  How many miles do you need to put in each day, how you plan to change your diet.  Focus on the goals most important to this race, do you need to build your speed or your stamina?  Work on your training consistently.

Once you are ready go win your race!

Energy Optimization

My best exercises for endurance work best after you get the feel of having less inner resistance, so that you can have the habit of flowing right from the start. But they still have some value , so here they are.

1- Hill sprints on treadmill:

Find a steep enough hill one that will create enough of a challenge. One about 100 meters long would be perfect. Some days you could do 25 m , 50 m , 100 meters or a combination of all 3. Build up slowly. One good rule of thumbs is you rest as long as it takes your pulse rate to start going down before doing another.

2-Sledgehammer work:

Very good for upper body endurance and proprioception. Hit an old truck tire right and left to stay balanced, try working up to 1000 hits. It will take about 20 min to a half hour of
steady hitting to accomplish this. Try to vary the weight of the hammers , the 16 will not feel like the 6 obviously, but you will be surprised to find out that the speed generated by the 6 sometimes makes it harder then a heavier hammer . Do not get used to a weight, vary often.

3-Alternate speed jogging:

With regular jogging your body learns to get into a rhythm, this is not something that is good in a fight situation, in a fight, a rhythm always changes and is influenced by both fighters, so keep it varied.

4-Throwing a dummy ( Your best friend will do ):

One of the best you can do. Works the whole body in functional strength plus endurance, vary the speed. Try and work up to 100 throws.

5-Technical repetitions of varying intensity matching the duration of your match:

This one is the most neglected, especially in grappling, either on the ground or standing. Take your best moves and repeat them with a fight like intensity for the length or more of a match. Nothing can be better for a fighter to be able to attack continuously for the duration of a fight. Remember running does not always equate with good fighting endurance. Take Roberto Duran for an example, he had great 15 round endurance ,but rarely jogged. It might be hard to find a partner to do this, so do like Kimura practice a throw on a tree and do it for an hour, going harder as you get stronger.

Training on a Treadmill

Training for a marathon or even a half marathon is challenging.  The biggest challenge isn’t improving your endurance enough to run a marathon but the challenge is believing you can.  The next issue is working training into an already busy schedule.  If you work with a coach then you are subject to their schedules, the same applies to running with a group.  If you are running outside then you are at the mercy of the weather.  An obvious solution is training on a treadmill.  Trying to train on a treadmill has its own problems, here are some of the more common ones and how to overcome them.

Lack of Scenery

Running on a treadmill can get pretty boring, there is nothing to look at besides the wall in front of you, on the other hand running outside is filled with cars, people, other runners and loads of distractions.  The terrain also varies and there is nothing quite like training on the route you’re expected to run during the marathon.  On the plus side, it is far less likely you will be injured running on a treadmill and you can run in absolutely any weather.  If you are training for the Boston Marathon in early spring, there will be plenty of winter days where running outside is just not an option.  Use the treadmill to augment your training not be the sole source of training.

Boredom

Boredom on a treadmill is a real issue but really it is not the end of the world.  If you are training at a gym there are TV monitors everywhere and music you can listen with a set of headphones.   Training on a treadmill is not a permanent arrangement, it is done when training outside isn’t possible.  Try and alleviate the boredom by running sprints or concentrating on getting your form perfect.  Here are some more tips on overcoming boredom.

Running Alone

If you train outside or even at the gym you have the opportunity to work with a partner or a coach to keep you motivated.  Running clubs to the same thing, you can partner up with someone who is at your fitness level and you can help each other get through the run.  Running with a partner helps you improve your pace and sometimes it is nice just to have someone with you even if there is no conversation.  This is probably the most difficult part of working out alone, but if you want to compete at an elite level and run marathons this is really a very small price to pay once in a while.

Training for a Half Marathon

Training for a half marathon is going to take some dedication even for the most experienced runner.  Beginners and veteran runners tackle this training differently, a beginner will focus on building up their distance and aerobic stamina while at the same time trying to avoid injury.  A seasoned runner will instead will also tackle distance while at the same time try and improve their form.  A quality run will be every bit as important as hitting more miles within their run.   Here are some tips on training for a half marathon for the more experienced runner.

Training Sessions

As a regular runner there are still always new training methods and key components you can work into your run as you become more serious about your training.  One of the best methods to improve your run is to incorporate sprints or speed sessions into your run.  Running sprints can take different forms but essentially what you do is run at a much faster pace than you normally maintain during your regular run.  As you run these speed sessions, you might start out at 10-15 second intervals and you can increase the time as you train.  The purpose of sprints is to train your body to run at a faster pace while still trying to maintain the right form.  Another benefit is that it will also increase your lung capacity at the same time.

Using a Track

If you are lucky enough to have access to a running track either nearby or an indoor track at your health club you can create some pretty specific speed sessions where you can measure distance.  Ideally you want to work your way up to two laps around the track at near your maximum speed, you then rest for 30 seconds and then repeating the exercise.  You want to have somewhere between 6 and 10 800 meter sprint reps if possible.  Eventually you can shorten the rest periods in between and increasing the speed.  Using a track allows you to accurately measure your progress and see how you have improved overtime.  Competitive runners are always looking to improve.

You may also want to check with your local running club and see if there are speed running training or others training for a half marathon as well.  Always start off slowly and build up your endurance.  The last thing you want is to find yourself injured before the big race.