5 Key Workouts to nail your next trail race
Updated: Feb 27
Trail running is known for its constant changes in elevation, surface, and environment. Compared to road running it is less about speed but more about mastering ascents, descents, and technical trails.
How to train for a trail race? Ultrarunners advise
So how should you prepare for a trail race? Professional trail and ultrarunner Vlad Ixel is sharing some workouts to nail your next trail race.
Training for a trail race - 5 Key Workouts by Vlad Ixel
1. Uphill Repeats - VO2 max - The goal of uphill repeats is to improve your endurance and leg strength. Pushing the effort up hills is also a great way to improve your VO2 max without having to overstretch your muscles to the limit as you would on a flat surface. (To be hitting VO2 max on the flat, you almost have to be sprinting).
VO2 max refers to the maximum amount of oxygen your body can utilize during a workout. The higher your VO2 max, the more oxygen-rich blood can be delivered to your muscles, and the more power can be produced during a run - enabling you to hold a faster running pace over longer distances.
VO2 max uphill repeats: 10 x 1 minute uphill repeats - separated by a 30 - 90 seconds rest in between sets - on a 10 - 15% gradiant
Endurance uphill repeats: 3 x 10 minutes gradual uphill climb - separated by a 3 - 5 minutes rest in between sets - on a 5 - 10% gradiant
2. Long run - The main goal of long training runs is to strengthen your leg muscles and improving your cardiovascular system. Longer runs build endurance and even help you to get faster over time. Long runs are also a great way to test your race gear, and your hydration/ nutrition strategy.
For races up to 50k in distance, your longest training run should cover 75 - 80% of the total distance of the race (3-4 weeks before race day)
For races between 50k and a 100k, your longest run should cover at least 60% of the total distance of the race (3-4 weeks before race day)
3. Cross-training - The goal of cross-training (bike or elliptical trainer) is to improve your endurance and leg strength while taking away some of the impacts that running has on the body.
Low impact and Recovery Days are an important part of a training cycle and they will help build strength and avoid injury. Cross-training can be used as a base-building phase in your training. It is a great way to condition your legs in the early stages of your race build up so that they can withstand the longer and harder training sessions in the later stages of the training cycle.
60 minutes on the elliptical trainer - going at 3 minutes hands-on, followed by 2 minutes hands-free ( > this is also a great way to improve core and ankle stability)
60 - 120 minutes on the spin bike - rolling the legs in low gear and high cadence at 85+ rpm (rotations per minute)
4. Speedplay session - The goal with a speedplay (Fartlek) session on the trails is to attack different parts of the trail by getting the efforts on different kind of terrain, - e.g. uphills, downhills, technical trails.
· For shorter trail races: 10 x (4 minutes easy, followed by 1 min hard) on a medium distance training run between 10-20k (the hard parts should be at 1:30 minute pace per km faster than the 4 min easy sections (e.g. if the easy sections are around 6:30 min pace per km, the hard 1 min sections should be at 5:00 min pace per km)
· For longer trail races: 10 x (8 minutes easy, followed by 2 minutes hard) on a medium distance training run between 10-20k (the hard parts should be at 1:30 minute pace per km faster than the 4 min easy sections (e.g. if the easy sections are around 6:30 min pace per km, the hard 1 min sections should be at 5:00 min pace per km)
5. Hiking workouts - Many trail races would have long and steep uphills. It will be very challenging to run up the whole way and might require you to hike some parts. With this said, it is a great idea to implement hiking specific sessions in your weekly training routine. Ideally you would mix up the terrain (e.g. steep roads, technical trail climbs and stairs) you train on in order to work on different muscle groups.
Example workout that can be done in the middle of an easy jog:
· 6 x (5 minutes hard uphill hiking with an easy recovery jog down)
· 12 x (60 seconds hard uphill hiking with an easy recovery jog down)
Trail running requires different skills and workouts than road running.
It is also very useful to incorporate specific exercises into your training routine to improve balance, strength, mobility, and agility.
Here you can check out STRENGTH EXERCISES FOR TRAIL RUNNERS.