The training for the trail is of course available according to each distance objective: short, long, ultra; taking into account the terrain of the intended race: we do not prepare quite the same way for a trail in the forest, in mid-mountain or in the Alps. But some main lines remain valid for the whole discipline: the development of the qualities of runners, the adaptation to the varied grounds, the endurance and the drop. Let’s see here the main sessions that make progress!
First, work on the basic qualities of the runner
The trail, beyond its specificities, is still running. There is certainly a difference in altitude, we walk there often, we encounter terrain that is sometimes difficult to negotiate, but the basis is still running. We must therefore work on the basic qualities of the long-distance runner, like what the specialists of the marathon do or shorter or longer distances on the road.
The MAS, the threshold, the classic runner sessions therefore also apply to the trail runner. Depending on the level of the athlete and the distance of the target trail, the work of his specific gaits will be more or less important, but this basic background should not be totally left out anyway.
The 30 “/ 30” type sessions (30 seconds run at 90/100% of your VO2 max altenated with 30 “nits), 1 ‘/ 1” are of course to be favored at the start of preparation, to build your “displacement” of runner, whatever distance you are aiming for.
The aerobic “threshold” type sessions, run at a pace close to what you are able to hold in a half marathon, will be alternated with these “MAS” sessions during the initial preparation period. They will be maintained throughout the preparation.
In short, like all runners, trail runners will have an interest in running fast and working on these specific training gaits: the gains will be significant. You will be more comfortable with a high pace, will be more comfortable when it comes to relaunching on the flat and it will also help you to go up more easily in the uphill laps, and to unroll in the descent.
To bring a specific “trail” to these sessions, try at least once a week to perform this type of outings on natural terrain. Find a course that is sufficiently rolling to run without major technical constraints and on rather soft ground.
In the second part of this magazine, you will find a list of original ideas for splitting that can perfectly apply to trail runners!
Adaptation to varied terrain
As we have seen in the first part of this file, technical learning and mastery of the different soils and slopes encountered in trail running is an essential aspect to be comfortable in this practice, especially when one evolves in Mountain.
Thus, in addition to the concern for the right gesture and its acquisition in specific sessions (uphill, downhill, especially on the interval sessions mentioned above), we will have the concern, in most of the training, to vary maximum surfaces to learn to adapt better and to read the terrain.
As we said above, it will be interesting to perform the fast sessions (VMA, Threshold) on natural surfaces and hilly courses rather than all the time on track or road, in order to have a better muscular adaptation and articular. The same goes for jogging and basic land training: try, even if you live in town, to run as often as possible in nature, and on terrain that is closest to those you will find during of your target race.
Of course, when you live in 19th-century Paris, it’s difficult to find trails that look like the Vanoise; but you can all the same vary the grounds, while running on the ground, and the unevenness: you can always find flights of stairs or some slopes near your home. Long weekend outings and “w-e shocks” will also be an opportunity to get used to these varied terrains.
Endurance, being able to move for a long time, at a certain pace, is crucial for trail running, especially over long distances (ultra) but also, at each stage of practice, for all runners. The overall property, the dose of training is already fundamental to build a “frame” that will last for long hours on the trails. So of course, the sessions mentioned above, whether it be the interval training or jogging on varied terrain and the “active” height difference sessions, will of course be important bricks for building your endurance. But long outings, hike-races where the effort is longer will be almost essential to face the distances.
During a specific preparation period, one long outing per week is recommended. It will last roughly the target time of the race (not the distance) for events up to 40 kilometers and over a long period, less than the race pace, for longer distances. Of course, beyond a certain duration, these long outings will be rather “hike-races” where you will alternate depending on the terrain and the fatigue of the periods of running and walking. They will also be an opportunity to test your equipment, your bag and your supplies.
To improve your endurance, two complementary methods can be incorporated into your training.
The Shock Weekend: a key step for specific endurance
Theorized and popularized by Guillaume Millet, tested by many runners like Sébastien Chaigneau, the shock weekend has become an often essential element in the preparation of a trail, especially for the Ultra-Trail. From one to three “WECs” can fit into a race preparation. They should be well quantified and placed judiciously in the programming calendar.
What is it about ?
This involves placing 5 to 8 hour outings at low speed over 2 or 3 days (hiking-running). Go with the race gear prepared, it will be necessary to know enough or study the place where we intend to do it. It will obviously have to be as similar as possible to the target race, whether on the nature of the terrain or the difference in height. The mind ? you manage the situation, you listen to yourself.
How to distribute the outputs?
One of the interests of WEC is to generate fatigue without falling into too much exhaustion which will hamper the rest of the preparation. Therefore, it may be wise to organize your shock weekend with little recovery between outings. For example, you can start your WEC with an outing starting at 6:00 PM with 2 hours daylight and 2 hours night time. The next morning you will start early enough around 6 a.m. / 7 a.m. so as not to leave too much rest between sessions and you will leave for a six to eight hour outing. On the last day, for example, you can leave for six or eight hours or by splitting into two parts with four in the morning and four in the afternoon.
How to organize the WEC?
Since you are not on a race, there are obviously no supplies, so it’s up to you to plan and organize your water and food supplies.
The easiest way to take it with you is to take your food rations and identify water points beforehand either by passing through the city or the village, or to spot a fountain on the course or even for the lucky ones. a good soul who would come to supply you during your training.
- Similarly, plan what is necessary so as not to abrogate your session for a trifle. For example plan to bandage or other nok so you don’t have to stop along the way for so little which would be discouraging and a real shame.
When to expect it?
It is possible to plan several, however the last one should not be placed less than three weeks before the objective.