Experienced runners have learnt these lessons the hard way and I wish I’d known them at the start. If you are new to trail running or want to improve further, these tips will give you a great head-start.
Trail running is something I love doing, for a few reasons: The mental challenge or the long runs, the variation in terrain (meaning less chance of over-use injury) and the awesome scenery. But the thing is that it can make you sore, going down hill can play havoc on you knees and back and transitioning from the flat to going up and down repeatedly is tough, plain and simple. These next 5 tips will really help you keep going and improving with this awesome sport but really aims to decrease the load on your knees and run with better economy – Give them a go on your next few training runs and no doubt you will find them a lot easier once you get used to it.
1. Cash in down hill
Heading down hill is your chance to, 1. Catch your breath and 2. Make up time. Gravity is on your side here so don’t fight it – increase your pace as much as is comfortable on downhill. It is important to train for the downhill just as you would for attacking the uphill slopes – This builds the eccentric strength of your quads so that they can handle the load. Lastly – Enjoy running downhill, it is a lot of fun, a great chance to run fast and a great training alteration.
Don’t battle against the terrain. Use it to your advantage.
2. Upright torso, don’t cramp up your diaphragm
Going uphill is hard but we often make it harder on ourselves by looking down at the ground and bending our torso forward.
So to make uphill running a lot easier and open up our lungs better – maintain an upright torso and look up the slope.
3. Sit back and cycle downhill
This is so important, and will allow you to do number one a lot easier and with less pain afterwards! Here is what you need to do on the downhill:
- Don’t over-stride – This will cause you to land with your foot in front of your knees and your leg straighter – basically acting like a brake, slowing your pace and stressing your knees and back big time.
- Increase your cadence, this the turn over rate of your feet. Increase your turnover, taking quicker steps.
- Visualize your feet landing behind you, this will help your feet land under your torso.
This is often called downhill cycling as you are taking faster steps and sitting back into it a little (leaning back).
Tip: If you want to slow down or be in more control, don’t brake through straight legs, sit back or lean back more – this will help slow you down and put you in control.
4. Conserve uphill
Walk when you need to on the steep bits and keep you feet turning over and heels kicking up for the rest of the up-hill – remember you are going to make up the time on the flat and downhills!
5. Cadence and kick your heels up to trip less.
Maintaining an economical cadence helps get you through those longer runs and maintain a good technique. When on the flats, try to maintain a cadence of around 90 steps per minute on each foot. This cadence means less force up your shin because you are landing with your foot below your knee and not in front and it means you are kicking your heels up more and taking shorter strides – which ultimately means that you are in more control and there is less chance of tripping and ending up being very sore.
Above all, enjoy yourself and smile – it makes it a lot easier.