How to Tackle a 10K on the Trail

Before you tackle your first trail race, there are three things you need to know:

1. If you've been running roads your whole life, you've been training yourself not to be a trail runner. A road's even surface encourages long, lazy strides along a straight plain. Trails, on the other hand, with their twists and turns and terrain littered with rocks, roots, and twigs, make every footfall a mystery, engaging muscles for balance and control that you never knew you had.

2. Don't worry; it only takes four weeks to prepare your body to race a 10K—the most classic trail distance.

3. Don't be a hero. Try to jump into a trail race without the proper training and—because your hips, ankles, and legs aren't used to the uneven ground and changing direction—there's a decent chance you'll hurt yourself. We tapped Ian Torrence, an ultramarathoner and trail running coach for McMillan Running, to outline a training plan with all the strengthening, balance exercises, and (gulp!) hill repeats you'll need to achieve your best time—and get home safely. Follow these Trail Running Safety Tips to be prepared for any obstacle.

More: 15 Technical Tips for the Trail

WEEK 1

Mon: Easy Run (30 to 40 mins)
Tue: Strength & Balance
Wed: Hill Repeats (6 to 8 times)
Thur: Easy Run (40 to 50 mins)
Fri: Strength & Balance
Sat: Long Run (75 to 90 mins or as long as you can go)
Sun: OFF

Key thing to think about: Become comfortable with your footwork, taking shorter strides as you negotiate rocks, roots, mud, and sudden terrain changes.

More: 6 Tips to Tackle Any Terrain 

WEEK 2

Mon: Easy Run (40 to 50 mins)
Tue: Strength & Balance
Wed: Tempo Intervals (2 to 3 times 2 miles)
Thur: Easy Run (40 to 50 mins)
Fri: Strength & Balance
Sat: Long Run (75 to 90 mins)
Sun: OFF

Key thing to think about: You've likely become a bit sore from the new training. Use a foam roller to iron out some of the kinks, take an ice bath, and maybe schedule a massage.

More: Must-Have Gear for Trail Runners

WEEK 3

Mon: Easy Run (30 to 40 mins)
Tue: Strength & Balance
Wed: Hill Repeats (8 to 10 times)
Thur: Easy Run (40 to 50 mins)
Fri: Strength & Balance
Sat: Fast Finish Progression Run (60 mins)
Sun: OFF

Key thing to think about: With race day only two weeks away, think about how you wish that day to unfold. Set a few race-specific goals to aim for that will keep you motivated.

More: 6 Tips to Stay Motivated With Your Training

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