Training to Help Push Your Limits

It is hard not to be inspired by the abundance of athletes in Fernie and their amazing accomplishments, but you can find inspiration in many levels of success. I’ve always said that it is just as impressive to see someone cross the finish line in record time as it is to see someone limp across the line just under the course cut off, bleeding and bruised. Someone who has been out the most number of hours, has gone through the most devastating lows imaginable and still has the will to keep moving. It has the power to bring an entire crowd to tears.

To follow last month’s article I will share some training lessons that I’ve learned to hopefully send you in the right direction the next time you are inspired to push your own limits.

When it comes to trail running the two most important workouts are hill training and long slow distance (LSD). You can run 3-4 days a week and still maximize your results and improve your fitness.

Workout #1 – Hill Endurance.
There are amazing trails all around that give you as much vertical as you can handle. I personally enjoy linking several tough hills together as it builds endurance at an alarming rate. The key to this workout, whatever the distance, is running into a hill for as long as possible before walking. Not as fast as you can but at a pace that allows you to run. The hills should be long enough that at first you eventually have to walk. You’ll find that each time you will be able to run a little farther and eventually you will be able to run the entire distance. Once you reach this point you can start increasing your pace. This will pay off when you are in a multi-hour race, pacing yourself on hills and it feels like a breeze. If you are just getting into it start with one hill at a time and add more as you get fitter.

Workout #2 – The Hill Repeat.
There is nothing fun about this workout except that it is short. This will build pure power in your legs and maximize your cardiovascular capabilities. Unlike a typical repeat where you run for a set distance and then repeat that distance over and over, I like to run full out on a hill that is so steep that you die out before you get to the top so that your repeats are always going up and your rest is very minimal. My preferred “hill” is Mt Fernie. It is steep and long and you can get your whole workout done in one big “repeat.” Use your run from home as a warm up and when you hit the trail head, drop the hammer! Run for as long as you can as fast as you can (which won’t be very fast) until you get to the point where you absolutely have to stop. Continue walking for a few minutes until your breathing is under control and your heart rate has come down and then do it again. I know this sounds horrible but even if you can do it every few weeks the payoffs are worth it. Continue this until even after your rest period you can’t run anymore. Take a few minutes to enjoy the view and then burn it down the trail back into town. Try and build up to an hour of repeats including your warm up, and plan for an easy run or a day off the following day. Don’t feel discouraged if this workout doesn’t ever get any easier. It is not supposed too. The stronger you get the faster and longer you will be able to run the repeats before you have to stop but the end result will be the same - complete exhaustion and burning legs. Note that this is a very advanced work out and you should scale it to your current fitness. As you become fitter build on it but don’t just jump into this one.

Workout #3 – Long and Slow.
This workout is meant for a few things. First of all you should really enjoy running on this day. The pace is slow, you walk the big hills, stop and chat briefly with friends and take in a view or two. The key is spending several hours moving on your feet. However, don’t get too complacent on the trail. This is a day to test your body and see how it handles hour after hour of being on the trail. This will be anywhere from 1-6 hrs of trail time depending on your level of fitness and your goals as a runner.

Nothing makes you a better runner than running and that is what the long slow distance is for. Increasing your running efficiency is the absolute most important aspect of long distance running. Your body will adapt and naturally become more efficient. Running will become easier and easier, you will recover quicker, and your body will learn to burn the right fuel that will allow you to sustain hour after hour. This is a little different than hill training in that your body will start to hurt right away on the hills. Don’t stop at the first sign of discomfort - push through it for a while so that you learn to deal with it because you can guarantee that it will happen in your next race.

These are all fairly advanced workouts so you should alter them to fit your current fitness level. Try to work these runs into your current routine so that you do each one every other week. Try workouts #2 and #3 one week and then workout #1 the next. Or just do one of them per week at first and build on that. During my peak training weeks before a race, all I do are these three runs plus a recovery run over seven days. If you are just getting into it don’t worry too much about any kind of structure just get out and run. Throw a hill in there once in a while even if you have to walk the whole hill. That will still build your strength and endurance. Run a little farther each day even if it is five minutes. It may seem tough at first but trust me it will get easier. Study proper running form and practice running, it will become as natural as anything else you do.

See you out on the trails and if you have any questions please feel free to stop me. I love talking about running almost as much as I love to run!

Happy Trails!