How to Train for Ups and Downs in Trail Running

The Ups and Downs of Hill Training

Next time you run hills, follow these guidelines:

1. Hill running uncouples the effort from the speed (i.e., you are running relatively slow even though you're working hard), so the exact pace is not as important as the effort. Aim for a specific effort rather than a specific speed. Monitor heart rate with a heart-rate monitor to make sure you're working hard enough.  

More: Heart Rate Training Tips

2. Since your pace will fluctuate substantially when running hills, focus on maintaining an even effort rather than pace. 

3. To increase VO2 max, use a hill that takes at least three minutes to climb. If you're running at about 5K effort, your heart rate, stroke volume (the volume of blood pumped by the heart per beat), and rate of oxygen consumption can rise up to their maximum values. In a laboratory setting, the VO2 max test is almost always performed using an increase in treadmill grade as a way to use more muscle mass and get runners to reach their VO2 max.

More: 3 Workouts to Increase VO2 Max  

4. When running downhill, shorten your stride to prevent overstriding, and emphasize a quicker leg turnover, which will keep momentum going forward. You should feel like it's controlled falling.  

5. Given the stressful nature of downhill running, treat downhill workouts as hard sessions, and give yourself time to recover with two to three days of easy running afterward. Be sure to back off of the hills in the final couple weeks before a race.

6. Add downhills to training a little at a time. Start with a short, gradual slope of about two to three percent, and progress to steeper and longer descents. 
 
Since you are running faster on downhills compared to the flat or uphill sections of trails, there is less time to decide on foot placement. Look ahead a few steps so you can prepare since the footing on trails is often unreliable.

More: 7 Hill Running Workouts That Increase Power

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