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Top 5 Trail Running Tips For Your Next Race

In this week’s top-five, we have the top five trail running tips to help you on your next race or weekend trail run.

1. Understand “Gear Hill” Running

You know how bikes have gears, well so do your legs.

Have you ever realized that when you run downhill your legs need to move a lot faster and when you run (or like for most of us, walk) going uphill feels like a battle of power and drive.

Now with bikes, you’re able to change gears. Like when you go up a hill you switch to a low gear, creating a very quick turnover with minimal power. Whereas going downhill, you crank up the gear and put a lot more force into the pedals with minimal turnover.

This is the same concept with your running. I call it “gear running”

Here is the gear running concept.

On flat terrain to about 10% incline, you will run with a normal stride, a 50/50 split of frequency of leg turnover and force within each step if you would (essentially, this is running like you normally do)

As you increase up a hill, start to increase your turnover with mini small steps, similar to that on a bike in low gear (you know, that gear that makes you pedal like crazy as you feel like you are getting nowhere, yeah, that gear). This technique can help you save strength and energy in your legs, while giving you a chance to control your breathing a little (we will get to that later down on the top 5).

Now if you can imagine, the opposite is true as you head down a hill. Here you will need to increase your power and agility in each step while working to control your turnover as to not lose control and fall.

Balancing these gears and understanding how to use them can help you exponentially on your next trail. So give a try and let us know what you think about this trail running tip.

2. Check Out Your Arms

20% of your speed come from your arms.

Do you know how to use them?

Try this trick the next time you are on the trail. With a water bottle in hand, see where it goes. Across your body on each arm swing, or front and back from your face cheek to your butt cheek (Cheek to cheek). If your bottle crosses your body, you are wasting energy and could be more efficient by working on controlling your core a bit more. Work on getting those arms to swing smooth on the side of your body. Feel the consistent rhythm of the water in the bottle…Swoosh, swoosh!

3. Know Your Training Focus- long duration, sprints, hills?

When you are running, do you run with intention? (if you don’t understand what that means, go check out our articles on Training With Intention). Do you understand how your metrics should read after you get done. To get better at running trails and races, you need to train beyond your typically “per mile race pace”. You need to focus on three ways of running flows: race pace at the distance you want to cover, above race pace covering a shorter distance, and below race pace with longer duration. If you can incorporate these focuses on various days throughout the week you will be able to run faster and quicker on that next race.

4. Relax Your Breathing

Just like using gear running, understanding how to breath while running comes in various forms. However, knowing this one trick can be a game changer. Work on breathing through your nose. It can help you become more efficient and can help you control your heart rate. Practicing oxygen efficiency helps to flush out the lactic acid and burning feeling in your muscles. One of the tricks I use is to hold water in my mouth while I run to force myself to breathe through my nose. Not there yet? Try nose breathing intervals. Breathe out of your nose for 30 seconds (or as much as you can up to 30 seconds) and repeat a few times. It is not going to be comfortable, but with practice it will get easier and will help you out in the long run… literally!

5. Get Strong Ankles

This may be an odd one, but it is important. Whether it is running downhill, bouncing off rocks or making sure you don’t step on that awkward root. Your ankles need to have some stability and strength. Before each run and during your daily workout routine. Rep out a few ankle circles and some calf raises. Your body might not think it is much, but it will help save you two-three weeks being out with a twisted ankle. Adding in some agility work like ladders or hurdles can train your mind body connection to recover quickly from those ankle biters!

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