The most important points about mountain running training and four sample workouts to follow.
The summit is the goal
How about a new training and competition goal? For example, a mountain run? Sounds mystical; and it is: The summit is the goal! Enjoying fantastic views on the way to running highlights. Achieve new success, not only against yourself, but also against gravity. Runs in the midst of magnificent mountain landscapes. But such a mountain run not only opens up completely new perspectives, but also requires a few basic considerations on how best to approach the new adventure.
After all, anyone who has ever run up a hill while training will have noticed: A few meters of altitude are not only literally breathtaking, but also intense in calves and Achilles tendon. And the gluteal muscles are also of greater importance uphill than on the flat, since the foot has to be lifted higher than in normal running, similar to climbing stairs. Since the upper body is bent further forward than when running horizontally, the back muscles are also stretched and strained more, as are the arm and shoulder muscles due to the more active pendulum and balancing movement. If you take all the muscle parts involved together, mountain running offers a comprehensive muscle workout that you have to get used to.
Your mind runs with you
This sport also places special demands on the psyche. If you are only going slightly uphill, your pulse will shoot up to unimaginable heights. As a mountain runner, you have to adjust mentally to completely new conditions, since your pulse is constantly pounding at peak levels and you can’t simply regulate it by reducing your speed. The running speed is much lower than on the flat, the advantage of which is that you don’t have to fixate on a predefined pace. From a psychological point of view, mountain runs offer another significant advantage: the view! This gives you a feeling of grandeur every time and the certainty of having achieved something special. The way is the goal!
Specific mountain running training?
But what does training for mountain running look like? As a mountain runner as well as a flat runner, it is important to train the majority (at least 50-70%, depending on the training phase) of your training in the area of basic endurance, i.e. with a steady pulse. If the goal of the season is a mountain run, you can keep most of the previous running sessions unchanged. Like all other runners, mountain runners primarily train their basic endurance. And the best way to do that is on the flat. In other words: If you want to get up the mountain fast, you also have to train a lot in the valley.
To do this, there are some specific training variants that are primarily tailored to future mountain goats and that should be adapted to the individual distance requirements depending on the seasonal goal. First of all, you have to differentiate between mountain runs, which end at the top of the mountain, and trail runs, which involve a lot of altitude, but which also involve a lot of downhill. In the case of mountain runs with downhill sections, downhill running must be specifically trained in advance, because the eccentric muscle strain caused by downhill running causes severe muscle soreness if it is not practiced regularly. Pure uphill runs are easier to plan.
For example, if you are aiming for the Jungfrau Marathon, it is best to add a one-hour “speed hike” up a steep hill or mountain to your usual long runs of one to two hours, because this is exactly what will be required later in the race. Or ride your bike to the next mountain and then run up to the top. It is best to plan such a session so that the train carries you back down to the valley. Running uphill can be integrated into the general training routine with the following sample workouts:
Sample training 1: Running on hilly terrain.
- Run of about 30-60 min. duration in varying terrain.
- The main characteristic of this driving game unit is that the running speed changes more often.
- The intense sections (pulse around 80-90% of your maximum heart rate (MHF)) if possible run uphill. The runner decides for himself when and how often he runs at which intensity and how long the set pace is kept. However, it should not be permanently the same intensity.
- The easiest way is to use terrain markers as an aid, i.e. a small hill, a sign or a tree. Increase the pace until the target is reached and then take it easier again until a next target is glimpsed.
- The intense sections should last no longer than 5 minutes. And in total training time, you should run intensely for less than half of the total running time.
Sample training 2: tempo runs on the hill
- Several runs of no more than 6 minutes duration on a moderate incline (around 4-8%).
- Run a distance of about 500-1000 m at a brisk pace (no maximum effort!).
- The pulse should be around 85-95% of the maximum heart rate, i.e. around the anaerobic threshold.
- For a distance of about 500 m, do 6-8 repetitions, for a distance of 1000 m do 3-5 repetitions.
- Use the deliberately slow uphill run back to the starting point as an active rest. The pause duration should be at least as long ( preferably longer) as the effort duration.
Sample training 3: Hill sprints
- Several sprints of max. 30-45 seconds duration at a slightly higher incline (around 8-15%).
- The length of the run is about 100-200 m.
- The pulse should be around 90-95% of the MHF at the end of the load, i.e. in the anaerobic range.
- For a distance of around 100 m, perform 10-15 repetitions, and for a distance of around 200 m, perform 6-8 repetitions.
- Again, use the deliberately slow downhill run back to the starting point as an active rest. The pause duration should be at least as long as the load duration, preferably longer. As a rough guide, the pulse rate at the end of the break should be below 120-130 beats per minute.
- Even if it gets exhausting towards the end, you should run the last interval in such a way that it does not use up all your power reserves. You should always be able to (emotionally) add one more interval on top of it.
Sample training 4: Hill running drills
- This unit is about specific strengthening components that improve motor skills at the same time.
- The individual exercises are taken from the classic “running drills” and adapted for mountain running. In running drills, you perform exercises that help you improve your general running technique and coordination.
- Particularly suitable exercises for mountain runners are knee lifts, jump runs, squat jumps, one-legged jumps or forefoot runs where you land on the ball of your foot.
- To do this, choose a steady incline, the degree of incline suitable for personal fitness level. But be careful: The exercises can quickly become exhausting – but they are also very effective! You should not invest more than about one minute per exercise. Of course, you can do several rounds. For the first such workouts, you should approach slowly so as not to overload the musculoskeletal system.
If you’re on vacation in Holland or can’t find a hill nearby, you have three possible alternatives for hill running training:
- Simulate the above-described training variations indoors on a treadmill with an adjustable incline.
- Select a high-rise building with a freely accessible staircase and complete the training there.
- Find a longer staircase somewhere outside (in a football stadium). The stairs should be long enough to allow 1-3 minutes of exertion at a time. By the way: stair runs can alternatively be simulated well on the stepper in the fitness center, then you save the running downhill.
And don’t forget. Not only the mountain runs themselves, but also the mountain running training puts increased strain on calves and Achilles tendon, so incorporate regular stretching of the “mountain running muscles” into your daily training routine!
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