A great use of the off season is to include some trail running into your routine. Cross country, or off-road training / racing in general, is all about strength, and this will pay dividends in the race season.
Santi Brage from Got To Tri, tells us what to expect when trail running in the winter and shares 3 techniques to help you improve.
“The mental and physical comfort you gain from practicing on the hills will having a lasting impact on your daily runs — Santi Brage, Got To Tri”
The best way to feel strong and comfortable running both up and down hills on the trail is to practice. Once you have got used to running off-road, once a week, add a few repeats on a tough trail hill after your run. The uphill will help build explosive strength as you climb, whereas the proper downhill technique will add to strength in the knees and legs.
It is invaluable to be able to handle running in cold conditions, to know how to deal with all temperatures.
Trail Running in Mud
Running in mud can present a few unpleasant challenges. Thick mud can pack into the bottoms of your shoes, adding what feels like a ton of extra weight. A gunked-up bottom also means significant loss of traction.
Finally, as you tire, dredging through mud can lead to muscle strains, cramps, and pulls as the tackiness of the mud causes you to stride differently and exert your fatigued and electrolyte-depleted muscles.
Since your pace and stride are going to slow and change in mud, you must be prepared to be on all fours on a muddy incline. If necessary, even using your hands to get traction.
Try to stomp off as much mud as possible or wipe off what you can on a rock. Many trail running shoes have self-cleaning soles, making them more effective at shedding mud than road shoes. Some trail shoes, however, actually hold on to mud, depending on the outsole pattern, the depth of the lugs, and the particular mud type.
Furthermore, certain clay will stick to any shoe, regardless of the sole surface. When you buy your trail shoes, it pays to inquire specifically about their various features to ensure you are getting what you want.
Getting dirty is a part of trail running. Embrace it if you can. While, mud can be frustrating, staying positive will get you through the course in better fashion and likely at a faster pace.
Remember, it’s just another variable to hurdle! Roads are predictable. That’s why we love trails, right?
Trail Running in the Cold
Come prepared with everything you may need, using drop bags or layering on your person as is practical.
Dressing in layers is key. Today, technical materials and clothing are so thin and lightweight, there is no excuse for not carrying them along with you if you know you may be facing cold conditions. Calf or arm sleeves are a great option for added warmth and are easily removed.
Since dehydration can lead to getting too cold, it is important to stay on top of your hydration.
To prep for your off season trail running, I suggest to all new trail runners that they practice certain drills to build strength and technique.
3 Drills for Trail Running
Benefits: Builds leg strength and agility.
Instructions: Find a picnic table, bench, or set of stairs. Place feet hip distance apart and drive from your lower legs to hop up onto the platform. Land on the balls of your feet. Complete 2–4 sets of 5 jumps once or twice a week.
This is an easy drill to perform when you just have a few minutes.
2) Four Square Drill
Benefits: Builds ankle and knee strength and durability, and trains agility and quick foot placements.
Directions: Draw a 2ft x 2ft square on the ground and jump with both feet together from the centre to outside the square and back to centre. Rotate between all four sides. Repeat in opposite direction.
After completing the drill with two feet, repeat using only one foot at a time.
Benefits: Builds explosiveness in the legs, corrects running form, and improves your uphill running technique.
Directions: Take long strides while running, concentrating on getting the knees up high and really exploding off the back leg. Run for roughly 100 meters. Repeat two or three times. This is a classic running drill, used by sprinters and distance runners alike. It is also a great drill for trail runners.
About Santi Brage
Santi Brage is one of the owners of Got To Tri and is a coach at their Mallorcan based triathlon training camps. He is a level 2 British Triathlon coach and Level 2 British cycling coach.
Santi is fortunate enough to represent Great Britain in his age group. He recently competed in the Triathlon World Championship in Cozumel Mexico and he also represented Great Britain at the 2016 Aviles ITU Duathlon World Championships.
Other middle distance triathlons he has competed in include Antwerp 70.3; Lisbon Half & Malaga Ican.
Santi is also the founder Box My Wheels which provides bike box hire and aims to take the hassle out of transporting your bike to anywhere in the world.
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