Trail running training advice

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!

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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.

Develop endurance


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.

La Sportiva Kaptiva 2021 vs La Sportiva Mutant

La Sportiva Mutant

Dynamism Heel height

The model, with its very notched sole, is clearly intended for muddy, technical, mountainous and “off trail” terrain. It has a very efficient and innovative lacing system, the fit is very comfortable and precise.

The shoe is very dynamic in the relaunch even on hard ground despite a very high sole due to these huge studs.

The only downside is that you lose a little precision in the downforce due to a slightly high heel, with a drop of 10 mm. However, it remains very efficient on technical terrain.

The most technical
Spyral Tongue: integrated gaiter, protection. Fusion Gate: hold. Asymmetric, crossed tongue: reduces pressure on the top of the foot.

Injected EVA coupled with Stabilizer insert: stability at the moment of impact with the ground. FriXion XF: grip. Impact Break System: traction. Crampons, heel tab, drop: 10 mm.

Preferred distance
Long distance and ultra-trail trail

Preferred land
Mountain paths

Technical sheet

  • Weight in gr. (per shoe): 320
  • Tightening: Laces
  • Membrane: NC
  • Stem: Low stem
  • Cushioning: MEMLEX EVA
  • Outsole: Ultra-grippy FriXion XF mesh
  • Midsole: OrtholiteMountainRunning Ergonomic 4mm
  • Sizes available: 36 to 47.5

La Sportiva Kaptiva 2021

Very protective model / high mountain style / excellent support. Price / Rigid support / difficult rebound.

Fans of brawling Sportiva, what if you gave this cute Italian innovation a try? A slight step aside for the manufacturer, which filled lovers of robustness – sometimes downright, hard. Surprisingly at first glance, one wonders about its DNA: lightweight design, seductive drop and less than 290g, the crampon is indeed that of a “Sport”, but a certain heaviness in less. Response to the test? The Kaptiva is a very interesting synthesis, ideal on formats less than 80K.

Strong protective, on this point the Italian follows its common thread, as well as its grip which makes one think of an approach shoe. But if thin feet are favored by the size of the footwear, the propulsion of the whole would make the most reluctant want to go … trot. At this point, we say bravo. The Kaptiva thus confirms its punchy look by the pleasure it provides.

In terms of the upper, La Sportiva offers here a feeling of relief which, again, is seductive for those who balk at heavily bodied shoes. Let’s face it, this Kaptiva is still a Sportiva, and if the nervousness on the hills is as satisfying as it is lasting, you will have to get used to a still rigid chassis. The crampon remains firm, moderately adherent and packs fairly quickly. However, the model is an excellent surprise on the false flat portions (+/-!), By deploying very pleasantly.

Once again, this Sportiva will require qualities of the foot, and a certain habit, as its cushioning is firm.

But on that condition, or that of being a real fan, the shoe then becomes very playful downhill, with a responsiveness that feels good. Relaunch downhill? and why not ! Beware of slips on wet rock, and enjoyment.If you decide to buy this model, try to do it before the start of the Chinese New Year 2021. Prices will rise.

Technical sheet

  • Weight in g (per shoe): 284 in 42
  • Tightening: Laces
  • Membrane / Material treatment: NC
  • Stem: Low stem
  • Cushioning: TPU / EVA
  • Midsole: NC
  • Outsole: Frixion White
  • Sizes available: 38 to 47 1/2
  • Technology / Other infos: Upper: wraparound and elastic knit fabric tongue + anti-deformation stabilizing mesh front part + No-Sew reinforcements (without seams) in protective TPU Lining: breathable anti-slip mesh Midsole: compression EVA and stabilizing and anti-torsion TPU inserts + rock guard insert in bi-density EVA Sole: FriXion® White with Impact Brake System with predisposed crampons for AT Grip Spike Spike Plantar: Ortholite® Ergonomic 4mm
  • Drop: 6 mm

Seven things I’ve learnt training for Karkloof100

Ultra running is no joke, but it’s the training that really shows you what you are made of. When I set myself the goal of running 100 miles (160km) I knew it was going to be tough as nails, I thought yeah I will learn so much running it (and I am sure I still will when we toe the line in September at the legendary Karkloof100) but it is the training that has been something of a revelation for me.

Don’t let the vert hurt

Depending on the type of terrain your goal race is you will naturally train accordingly. If your race is over smooth jeep track and clean forest trails spending hours in the rocky technical mountains every single run won’t necessarily benefit you as much as flat dirt road running will. I’ve had to force myself to walk the hills, and hey it’s OK! No one is going to be laughing at your Strava laps because you walked the hills. Saving energy on the ups means you run the flat and downhills when others are forced to walk later in the race.

Don’t waste tired legs

For years I have tried my best to make sure I am as rested as possible before the weekend long run, but a few weeks back when I was slogging through a 4 hour run feeling like death warmed up all I wanted to do was stop. Then it suddenly hit me, I worked hard to get this tired and I am not injured, so just keep running. Running your long run on tired legs is a great way to simulate a possible race day environment when you start to feel tired towards the end of the race. This can be applied to any run distance training. It not only teaches you to run on tired legs but builds some serious mental fortitude because we are never as tired as our brain tries to tell us we are. You can always go more!

Train at goal race pace

This has been by far the toughest part of my training. Not counting the very little speed work I do, most of my runs have tried to be at goal race pace for the karkloof100, which happens to be almost 3 minutes per km slower than the average I am most comfortable at. Training slow takes proper discipline, having people pass you while you are walking is not good for the ego but training at 4min/km will have zero benefit when you are running for 24 hours plus at 7mins/km. Training the slow twitch muscle fibres and building endurance is a patience game. One that you will reap serious benefits from if you can get right.

The hunger is real

It’s true what they say, training for an ultra puts a fire in your belly. The proverbial fire of passion and zeal to go further than ever before, but more importantly a literal fire that burns up anything you eat in 30 seconds flat. The fight for clocking as many miles as you can without getting injured before race day is only surpassed by the fight to consume as many calories as humanly possible, and hope it’s enough.

Make sure you like being with yourself

For the most part running is a selfish sport, especially ultra running. You will be spending hours out there, mostly by yourself. If you don’t like your own company you will have to quickly learn to like yourself. Ultra running for me is about self-discovery (among other things), if you feel like you don’t know yourself very well just enter an ultra. You will get acquainted very quickly. Getting comfortable being uncomfortable and still being patient with yourself when things don’t go according to plan is a skill that is learnt and one that can benefit in all spheres of life.

Spotify will change your life

If you still don’t like yourself after training for an ultra just register on Spotify. Podcasts and playlists for days that will keep you entertained. I try not run with music mostly but there are some days when you are just so flat and can’t bring yourself to have to process any thoughts while running. It’s days like these when a Spotify “Lazy Weekend” playlist serenading you through your long run makes you feel like you are running on cotton wool.

Find an understanding spouse

I should have lead with this because it is probably the most important part of training for an ultra, especially if you would still like to be married when you cross the finish line. Don’t forget to put that quality time into your spouse / partner / significant other on top of all the hours you are hogging to clock the miles. Making them feel special and that they are still the most important goal of your life goes a long way to helping them support you in your goal to reach that finish line. You might be so focused on the sacrifices you as the runner make in your pursuit of your goal, that you haven’t seen the sacrifices the love of your life is making.

P.S. Loni if I hadn’t said it enough thank you for letting me train for this. Thank you for having yummy suppers ready when I get home late in the week from long runs. Thank you for understanding and support me in this. I couldn’t have / can’t do it without you

Kelly Wolf to Race at 2018 Karkloof100

KwaZulu-Natal’s premier hundred mile footrace, Karkloof 100, taking place for the second time in September this year, is excited to welcome international elite ultra-trail runner, Kelly Wolf, to it’s field. The event will also be hosting a 50-miler which starts from the turn around point of the 100-miler route.

At just 23 years old, Wolf has taken the ultra-running world by storm since turning professional in 2017. In just over a year, Wolf has dominated in her field, with podium finishes in major trail running events around the world. This year alone, Wolf was the first female home at the Tarawera ultra-marathon, a 102km race based in Rotorua, New Zealand. And more recently, won the Lavarado 120km ultra-trail marathon in Italy over the weekend. Both races are part of the Ultra-Trail World Tour, a collection of the most established and difficult trail races across the globe – something the Karkloof100 aspires to become part of.

Based in Telluride, Colorado in the USA, a town which lies at 8750ft in the San Juan Mountains, with a population of just 2300, Wolf’s backyard is literally her training ground. By day, she is a gymnastics coach but spends every spare minute exploring the mountains that she calls home.

As excitement for the Karkloof100, which is now just three months away, builds, co-race directors, Andrew Booth of KZN Trail Running and Jack Davis of the Trail Lab, are thrilled to have Wolf on the line-up for the 50-mile event.

The Westfalia Farm on the karkloof100 route

“We’re looking forward to the opportunity to show Kelly not just the international standard of our event but also the beauty of our province and the hospitality of our country,” said Booth, adding that bringing Wolf to South Africa to take part in the race would not have been possible without international hydration pack brand Ultimate Direction – a joint sponsor of both Wolf and the Karkloof100 event.

“Although the race is still in its infancy, it has already drawn an incredibly talented field of local athletes. And now will welcome its first international runners, and first elite female runner. This is a great sign, a proud moment, and testament to the fact that South Africa is becoming a serious destination for ultra-marathon trail runners to visit and compete,” he added.

“We hope our future Karkloof100 events will entice more international runners to make this South Africa’s ultimate 100-mile trail event. Watch this space!” said Davis.

Wolf will be running alongside a mixed bag of national elite athletes as well as novices taking on the run of their life.

Greyt Run 2018

South Africa has some legendary places in terms of trail running with endless views and miles and miles of prestine trails. If there was ever a place that could be considered a top example of this, the small town of Greyton would be it. There simply is just too much to explore in 1 day of running so imagine our excitement when we heard of a 2 day stage race taking place over the weekend of 18/18 March 2018. The GreytRun promises to be a weekend of mountain stoke and family fun.

Runners crossing one of the many rivers in the area.

The run used to form part of the weekend festivities at the Greyt Escape Mountain Bike Race but now, for the first time, it will be it’s own stand alone race. Runners can expect to be blown away by not only the running as the hospitality of the communities in the surrounding Genadendal area are nothing short of legendary.

The two day event covers roughly 58km with a total elevation gain of around 1500m over the two stages. According to race director, Michael Viljoen, Saturday’s Stage 1 covering 30km “will take the runners in an easterly direction along the mountain range, traversing through fynbos, trails over farms, hidden valleys and secret kloofs, with stunning mountain proximity and great views over the valley. The second half will see the runners going back to Greyton via a more flat course along the valley floor and the banks of the river, towards the finish in town through bush trails that stir the senses and spur them on to be their best, before a well-deserved rest and recovery for Day 2.”

Day 1 Route and Profile

“Stage 2”, says Michael, “is 32 km with 717 metres of climbing. Fly like a butterfly, sting like a bee. Try to conserve your energy as you stroll over rolling hills in the first half, before tackling two big climbs as well as the GC. The route features jeep track as well as single track, as it makes its way around the historic town of Genadendal.”

As with most Stage Races there are a number of accommodation and entry packages so check out which one suits you best here. You simply cannot beat the vibe in race village between the stages so if you can try stay over at the race venue.

For those looking for something a little less serious there will be a 21k, 10k and 5k taking place on the Sunday which will appeal to runners of all levels, so it really is a fantastic family weekend out.

Use the discount code “bbtr10” for a discount on your entry.

Registration will be at the Old Potter’s Inn in Main Road, Greyton.

Times: Friday- 17:00-19:00

Saturday- 06:30-07:30

Sunday- 06:00-08:15

ASICS Gel-Fuji Attack 5

A review of the ASICS Gel-Fuji Attack 5 Trail Shoe

The People’s Champ. A title many strive for but few ever receive. The People’s Champ is someone who always remembers their roots, they always remember those who helped them get to the pinnacle of their sport. The People’s Champ gives back to their people. Whether it is family, friends or a complete stranger the People’s Champ remembers their humble beginnings and helps out wherever they can. Take for example Manny Pacquiao, he came from the slums of the Philippines to the pinnacle of professional boxing. Instead of hiding behind his mansions and fancy cars he remembers where he comes from, he proved this when he built over 1000 homes for poor Phillipinos in his home town. That is a true People’s Champion.

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The more we are running in the latest edition of the ASICS Gel-Fuji Attack the more we are realising that this shoe is The People’s Champion, of the running shoe industry. A shoe that has come from humble beginnings to the pinnacle of its sport. All throughout its ascent up the popularity polls it has remembered its fans, improved what needed to be improved but essentially staying consistent. Consistently brilliant. The ASICS Gel-Fuji Attack 5 is The People’s Champ. There is no doubt about it. Go to any trail event and at least half of the shoes you see will be ASICS. Why is this? Why is one brand so popular? We believe it is because the brand, ASICS, is not afraid to keep giving back to its fans. If you compare how much the average pair of ASICS retails for compared to its competitors you will see what we mean. The Gel-Fuji Attack 5 is available for R1599 at RUN Specialist Store, that is atleast R400 – R600 cheaper than the competitors we would stack this shoe up against. We haven’t called this shoe ‘The People’s Champion’ on price and popularity alone, and we don’t believe it is only popular amongst consumers because of its price. To be the Champ you have to be able to go toe-to-toe with the best. Let’s see how The People’s Champ stacks up against the rest.

ASICS Gel-Fuji Attack 5

Outsole

ASICS seem to be one of the only brands who have figured out that multi-directional lugs on the forefoot (and not only on the heel) is a massive advantage on the descents. Not every runner brakes with their heel on a steep descent. Having some lugs facing the other way on the descent gives the shoe a lot more stability than we initially thought it would. Especially landing on rocky surfaces while running downhill, the added grip did wonders for our confidence. The outsole is built for speed, there is no doubt about it. The lugs are built for ‘full ground contact’ meaning the whole outsole is designed so that you have the maximum amount of outsole in contact with as much ground as possible in every stride. This makes the shoe stable on loose rocky terrain, muddy terrain, hard pack and even tar. Granted the lugs aren’t aggressive enough to be an out and out mud slinging machine but it will still keep you upright in the wet stuff. The shoe handled incredibly well for us across various terrain. One of the BBTR testers used the shoe at a recent 3 Day Stage Race, the Cell C AfricanX. There was rain on Day 1, intense heat on Day 2 and more rain on Day 3. On each stage the shoe performed excellently.

Day 2 was a rocky and technical 34km route with around 1100m elevation. The added Rock Protection Plate gave enough protection from sharper rocks popping through the midsole. ASICS have gone with their High Abrasion Rubber in the outsole which we have found to be very durable. Doing a fair bit of running on tar and hard cement sections on the trails has not excessively worn down the shoes. Although these high abrasion materials in the industry are good for durability we sometimes find this negatively affects the grip of the shoe. Thankfully this has not been the case in the Gel-Fuji Attack 5. The rubber compound is hard but still has decent grip. It won’t grip like a Speedcross or something with a softer compound so if total grip is what you are looking for, you might look for something softer. If durability with enough grip to feel confident on the technical stuff is what you are after this shoe is right up there with the best.

Midsole

The midsole is built around a neutral platform and is split up into two sections, in the forefoot is a molded and contoured compound which does well to keep the shoe stable. It does this by preventing excessive ‘side-ways’ flexing of the shoe which keeps the ankle and the foot straight. This added stability is great on technical terrain but if you prefer a flexible and loose midsole you might find the shoe a little stiff. It is always a fine line between flexibility and stability on the trail but seeing that many first-time trail runners will head out in the Attack models they have done well to ensure the shoe remains stable. As mentioned earlier our tester used the Attack 5 at the Cell C AfricanX 3 Day Stage Race which covers 94km of trail running over 3 days. Before the event he had only run 10km in the shoe so going into the event we were all very interested to see how the shoe treated him after so short a run-in. The amount of cushioning was perfect for the high mileage covered over the 3 days. After covering 36km on Day 1, going into a 34km on Day 2 the shoe remained comfortable and didn’t give any blisters. That in itself is a win! The 10mm heel-to-toe drop is a little high for us but it didn’t pose any problems throughout the event.

The second part of the midsole is a Gel Pod in the heel which is one of the reason the shoe is so comfortable, the Gel Pod did wonders in absorbing some of the impact over the 3 days. This is another feature that makes this shoe so good across varying terrain as it is comfortable not only on the trail but also on tar and harder running surfaces. The midsole is also made up of what ASICS calls its SOLYTE material which is lighter than their standard EVA and SpEVA + materials. The shoe isn’t incredibly light so the lighter midsole material does well to keep the weight down. At 294g (Mens UK9) it isn’t the lightest shoe available so it does fall in the ‘All Round Racer’ category for us. A perfect high mileage trainer for logging those high miles leading up to an event.

Upper

We sometimes find a stable midsole is often accompanied by a loose fitting Upper which for us defeats the point of trying to build a stable shoe. This is not the case with the Attack 5. In fact the Upper might be a little too built up as it is not the most breathable shoe we have come across. On Day 2 in some serious heat a more breathable Upper would have been a welcome relief. Having said that the thick Upper does have it’s advantages, most noticeably the shoe stays dry inside. Running through puddles and wet grass socks stay dry which for us is fantastic, especially if you prefer running with dry feet. We thought blisters could be an issue because the thick upper would trap moisture in the shoe but the ‘ComforDRY Sockliner’ works incredibly well to wick sweat off the foot, keeping friction to a minimum. Admittedly it isn’t a shoe we would run through a desert with but training in winter is going to be a whole lot more pleasant with a shoe like this. One of our favourite features of the Upper is the pocket on the tongue that holds the laces securely inside. The possibility of branches pulling your laces loose while running along the trail is no longer a problem as they are tucked away securely.

At almost R600 cheaper than its competitors the Attack 5 is in a league of its own. A R1600 shoe that performs like a R2200 shoe is one of the reasons we have dubbed this shoe, The People’s Champion. The People’s Champion just keeps giving back to its fans. Not only in affordability but also in performance. We have a feeling this shoe will be around for a very, very long time and it most certainly can hold its own against its more expensive competitors. If you are a road runner looking at getting into trail running or even a seasoned trail runner looking for a stable, nuetral high mileage training shoe then the ASICS Gel-Fuji Attack 5 is for you.

Irony: Your Training May Not Be Helping You Reach Your Goals – Try Polarised Training

What is the purpose of training?

Is it for fun?  Is it to test yourself? Is it to cause adaptations that make you better?  Something else altogether?

I think all of these things are potentially valid, but in my opinion what training actually involves is a person attempting to cause an adaptation (or set of adaptations) to occur in order to become better able to achieve specific goals.  A focus on fun and tests doesn’t necessarily achieve this, and as as tempting as they may be I don’t think this is what training is for. But, ultimately, it does depend on what your goals are; and please note that I didn’t say to completely exclude these.

So what if your goal is to become a better runner?

If you want to win races, and to get fast over certain distances, always training for fun or treating every training session as a test is quite simply a mistake; this would be a case where you either need to change your training or re-evaluate your goals.

If the above-mentioned “get faster over certain distances” is your goal, then specific adaptations that allow the human body to do this are what we want to result from our training.

I think one of the most important adaptations to seek as an endurance athlete that would aid this goal would be mitochondrial biogenesis, which can be mediated by a protein called PGC-1α  – a key regulator of energy metabolism.  Our mitochondria are the part of our cells that generate most of the energy, so it should make sense that we want lots of mitochondria that function well in order to be a good endurance athlete. Increasing PGC-1α, then, would be a goal that one should probably have as an endurance athlete, and so training in a way that best does this might be a good idea!

One of the things that I’ve recently learned exhibits control over PGC-1α in skeletal muscle, is testosterone.

In this study, wherein some rats were fed exogenous testosterone, there were significant increases in their skeletal muscle PGC-1α.  The level of increase here would likely only be seen if one were supplementing with exogenous testosterone, since the rats doing so had ~12-fold increase in serum testosterone vs. the control; but this at least demonstrates a potential link between testosterone levels and PGC-1α (and so mitochondrial biogenesis) in skeletal muscle.

PGC-1α itself also increases angiogenesis (the development of new blood vessels) and fat oxidation — so it does more than simply increase mitochondria.  Both of these factors would also be helpful for improving performance.

The fact that PGC-1α is affected by testosterone should make us think twice about whether we want to engage in training that has a robust and prolonged stress response involved with it, which may negatively impact testosterone.  This goes back to my original point of matching our training up with our goals.

So perhaps simply running as much as possible as fast as possible for as long as possible might not be the best way to train.  We can negatively affect our testosterone production by waking up early to run (ie sleeping less), running too much or, more simply put, experiencing chronic stress.  In doing these things we are potentially stopping one of the adaptations we want to be happening in the first place as a result of our training.

So if we want to actually benefit from our training and propel ourselves toward our goals, how should we go about doing so?

I believe the method that makes the most sense is to reduce or remove the junk middle-ground training and train either at a high- or low-intensity.

High volume training, at a low intensity which can be sustained for long periods of time has lots of benefits, one of which is increasing mitochondrial biogenesis.

High intensity training induces metabolic stress, and also increases mitochondrial biogenesis through AMPK which is an enzyme that becomes more active when there is low energy levels within the cell, and subsequently activates PGC-1α. This happens especially so when in a glycogen-depleted state.  This especially makes sense when we think of metabolic stress as a state wherein we don’t have enough energy as we need for whatever we are doing, and high intensity exercise is the “whatever we are doing” and the lack of glycogen (stored carbohydrate) is the “don’t have enough energy.”

Middle ground training is not as intense as high-intensity training (because high-intensity is done at a level beyond which is sustainable for time), and not as long-duration as low intensity high volume training, so although it will still obviously have some of the effects mentioned above, it is not going to give you the biggest return on investment.  As fun as a tempo run may be, it should have a specific place in training in relation to your goals (race) and should probably not make up a large part of training.

Polarised Training

This is a training model that I have mentioned before referred to as polarised training, which was looked at in this paper where they tested a group of well-trained athletes who were randomised into groups of either high intensity interval training (HIIT), high-volume low-intensity training (HVT), lactate threshold (THR) or polarised (POL).  Here is a description of the intervention:

The HVT included three blocks each lasting 3 weeks: 2 weeks of high-volume training followed by 1 week of recovery. The two high volume weeks each included six training sessions with three 90 min LOW sessions, two 150–240 min LOW sessions (according to the training mode: running, cycling, or roller skiing) and one 60 min LT session using different types of interval training (e.g., 5 × 7 min with 2 min recovery, 3 × 15 min with 3 min recovery). The recovery week included three training sessions with two 90 min LOW sessions and one 150–180 min LOW session.

The THR included three blocks, each lasting 3 weeks: 2 weeks of high volume and intensity training followed by 1 week of recovery. The two high volume and intensity weeks each included six training sessions with two 60 min interval sessions at the LT (5 × 6 min and 2 min recovery in the first block, 6 × 7 min in the second block and 6 × 8 min in the last block), one 90 min LT session with longer intervals (3 × 15 min with 3 min active recovery in the first block and 3 × 20 min for the remaining two blocks), one 75 min session with varying changes in intensity (“fartlek”) (intensities resulting in a blood lactate of 1.5–5 mmol·L−1) and two 90 min LOW sessions. The recovery week included one 60 min LOW session and two 60 min LT interval sessions (5 × 6 min with 2 min of active recovery).

The HIIT included two interval blocks of 16 days with one adaptation week prior to and one recovery week after each block. The adaptation week included two 60 min HIIT sessions, three 90 min LOW sessions, one 120 min LOW session and 1 day of recovery. The condensed 16 day interval block included 12 HIIT sessions within 15 days, integrating four blocks of three HIIT sessions for three consecutive days followed by 1 day of recovery. The recovery week contained four LOW sessions of 90 min and 3 days without any training. All of the HIIT sessions included a 20 min warm-up at 75% of HRpeak, 4 × 4 min at 90–95% of HRpeak with 3 min active recovery and a 15 min cool-down at 75% HRpeak based on the protocol proposed earlier. The LOW sessions lasted 90–150 min depending on the training mode (running vs. cycling) at an intensity resulting blood lactate of <2 mmol·L−1.

The POL included three blocks, each lasting 3 weeks: 2 weeks of high volume and intensity training followed by 1 week of recovery. The high volume and intensity week included six sessions with two 60 min HIIT sessions, two 150–240 min long duration LOW sessions (duration according to training mode: cycling, running or roller skiing), which included six to eight maximal sprints of 5 s separated by at least 20 min, and two 90 min LOW sessions. The recovery week included one 60 min HIIT session, one 120–180 min LOW session and one 90 min LOW session.

The study was meant to assess specific “key endurance parameters” over 9 weeks.  These parameters included submaximal and peak VO2 (VO2submax and VO2peak) and HR (HRsubmax and HRpeak), as well as time to exhaustion (TTE) and velocity/power.  At the end of the 9 week period, it seemed that polarised training demonstrated “the greatest increase in VO2peak , time to exhaustion (during a specific protocol) and peak velocity/power.”

It would seem that a training model that includes the best of both worlds (and eliminates what interferes) makes sense both intuitively and in light of evidence.  Polarised training  allows one to use both high intensity training and high volume training (mentioned above to both induce mitochondrial biogenesis through different mechanisms) separately and effectively without running the risk of overtraining.  I would, however, plan my own training quite a bit differently than was done in the above paper, which will likely be discussed in the future.

Train smart.

About the Author:

James is an amateur-adventurer and a curious thinker that spends much of his time outdoors playing amongst and exploring nature.

According to James he is a “pretty average person” (note however that he doesn’t claim to be normal!).  He feels there’s nothing special that he possess that allows him to enjoy any of the things he does, or to live the way that he decide to.  That mean’s that pretty much anybody is capable of doing whatever he does here, or at least has the capacity to develop an ability to do such things.

James is attempting to explore the full capacity of being a human — to enjoy life to the fullest extent that he know’s how.

Becoming a better human is something he deems to be important, and thankfully for us he will share anything he can come up with that may help!

PUMA Faas 300 Women’s Trail Shoe Review

If I think of female super hero’s Cat Woman usually comes to mind, for me she has always been one of the best and most fiercest of all the female super hero’s. Being one of DC Comic’s master’s of villainy she would always prove to be a fierce rival and a force to be reckoned with. Her Cat-like agility and stealthy thievery enables her to thwart even the strongest and toughest of opponents. If Cat Woman had a hobby, it would be trail running, and she would be pretty darn amazing at it with her fierce agility and power.

Now unfortunately for the ladies out there, you can’t all be Cat Woman but fear not because the team at PUMA have given you the next best thing, the PUMA Faas 300 Trail Shoe. Designed specifically for ladies who crave those cat like reflexes and agility that Cat Woman seems to enjoy so much!

Sole of the PUMA Faas 300

Right out of the box it is clear that this shoe means business. The sole of the PUMA Faas 300 is littered with claw like lugs just waiting to tear at the dirt and rocks as you whisk along the single track, just like Cat Woman would leap and skip between buildings with her loot on a moonless night in Gotham. Running on wet, muddy or loose gravel will give you great confidence in the grip of the shoe, our tester even said, “They are super grippy, I could even probably walk up an acute angled wall if all the odds were in my favour.” Once you hit the hard pack don’t think yourself crazy to stop and check if the lugs (read claws) have retracted into the sole as the spacing between the lugs (read claws) and the comfort of the Faas Foam gives you a wonderfully smooth and flat ride on the harder stuff.

Staying with the sole lets look at the midsole, PUMA have used their Faas Foam throughout the midsole which gives the shoe a great ride and is very comfortable (according to our lady tester, Lona Trew-Browne). They say a cat always lands on her feet and with this mid and outer sole any lady is going to be happy to land on her feet on a rugged and technical trail. One of my favourite aspects of the PUMA Faas 300 is how PUMA have managed to give the shoe a decent and comfortable amount of cushioning while still keeping it light, agile and in a ‘minimal-shoe’ bracket. The one thing that it is missing though(which has been added to the V2 model) is a rock-plate which along with the Faas Foam keeps the shoe nicely flexible but does slightly lack in the under-foot protection department.

Heel to toe drop on the PUMA Faas 300 will bring you out at 8.0mm with Heel Height of 26.4mm and a Forefoot Height of 18.4mm. These measurements with the pliability of the Faas Foam gives you a very lightweight shoe weighing in at fierce 8oz. (or 225g).

The PUMA Faas 300 Upper

The Upper has not let down in the comfort and agility department either with a padded tongue as well as a cushioned heel bridge. PUMA have gone with an upper that is reinforced with their Translucent Webcage Technology and has a dual density mesh throughout which is very effective in keeping dust and dirt out of the shoe.

The Look

One benefit of buying shoes that are made by one of the largest Lifestyle and Sport Shoe manufacturer’s in the world is you are sure to get some great colour options. This particular pair came in a flaming purple which will definitely turn a few heads, yet it is dark enough to hide the dirt a bit longer than a lighter colour.

So there you have it ladies, there can be only one Cat Woman but thanks to the team at PUMA everyone can run like her.

Altra Running ONE 2.5 Road Shoe

There is a lot one can do with 12 hours. You could perform a living donor liver transplant surgery, slow cook a Pork Belly stew to mouth watering perfection, or even fly from Cape Town to Paris to watch Zlatan Ibrahimovic score a wonder goal in the Champions League. All amazing things but up until a few weeks ago very few people thought you could run over 100 miles in that same time. Yet that is exactly what Zach Bitter did at the Desert Solstice 24 Hour race in the US on 19 December, setting a new world record for 12 hours with a distance of 101.66 miles. Simply Sensational. That’s averaging a mile every 7 minutes and the shoes he did it in? You guessed it… the Altra Running ONE 2.5 road shoe.

Altra Running is making some serious waves in the running industry with their lightweight, no frills, no fuss running shoes. Simple yet wildly brilliant. Not only are Altra’s trail and road shoes setting records and winning awards all over the world but the company as a whole is making massive leaps in the running industry. As of 2016 Altra Running will be the exclusive foot-wear sponsor of the infamous Western States Endurance Run. This is a remarkable achievement, especially for such a young company that has only been manufacturing shoes for a few years now. Their shoes are good, really good and the running community is starting to recognise that fact.

Flying High with #ZeroLimits

A few months back we reviewed the Altra Superior 2.0 trail shoe and found it to be a game changer, lacking a few good qualities but as a whole… A solid game changer. In this review we will be looking to see if the ONE 2.5 will have the same effect on the road running shoe industry.

Outsole


In terms of what you can see, the outsole is pretty simple. Just your standard rubber outsole to give you the grip you need. In terms of what you can’t see, i.e. the technology behind the outsole there is plenty going on. Instead of just giving you a piece of rubber to grip the surface as you run Altra have developed what they call their ‘Foot Pod Technology” which works incredibly well with the midsole and the runners foot to give the shoe flexion exactly where your foot needs it. This is the first shoe we have come across where the outsole has been developed so closely with the midsole in mind that it is almost impossible to separate the two. The patterns in both fit together very well to map the bones and tendons of the runners foot, this gives the sensation that you aren’t even running in shoes at all.

A shoe designed with the runners foot in mind

Midsole

There is no doubt about it, this shoe is built for speed! A lot of speed and according to Altra, “without sacrificing the comfort needed to maintain that speed through the finish line”. A 23mm stack height ensures there is optimum comfort, giving you enough cushioning to hit distances like Zach Bitter did in his 12hour record. The midsole features Altra Runnings signature Zero Drop foot-bed meaning the heel and toe’s are flat on the foot bed, this encourages are more natural forefoot running form. This does make it a shoe for a specific type of runner so if you haven’t run in a Zero Drop shoe before and are looking to make the switch it is a process that should be taken carefully to avoid injury.

Altra will be the official shoe sponsor at the 2016 Western States Endurance Run

Running in Zero Drop shoes has many benefits. One of the disadvantages we have found in the past is that a zero drop shoe can feel a bit “sluggish” because you don’t have the elevated heel-to-toe drop. Shoes with a 4mm or 8mm drop give you some momentum through the transition phase as your foot strikes the ground, zero drop shoes encourage a forefoot strike which can make them feel sluggish at first. We found the ONE 2.5 transitioned brilliantly into the next phase after the foot hit the tar, this is because of Altra’s A-Bound Technology which according to Altra “reduces ground impact and adds a spring to each step.” We found this to be true and worked incredibly well with the InnerFlex grooves built into the midsole, completely removing that sluggish feeling out of the foot transition phase.

Zero Drop. Zero Limits.

Upper

After running quite extensively in the ONE 2.5 we are pretty convinced that the ONE 2.5 is Altra’s most comfortable shoe they have produced to date. The no stitch overlays and quick dry Air-Mesh make for a very comfortable, sock-like feel inside the shoe. Very rarely are light weight racing shoes this comfortable, because of this fact it is a great shoe across all distances from 10km to 100miles. The ONE 2.5 features Altra’s signature Foot-Shape Toe Box which if used with a sock like Injinji gives you a massive amount of room inside the shoe for your little piggies to play all the way to the market. Your toes can naturally spread out and relax more instead of being cramped and unable to move inside the shoe. This coupled with an effective forefoot strike will increase your stability as you run.

Breaking Limits. Setting Records.

The Upper has been completely redesigned from the previous version and it is very noticeable. The Upper dries faster and wicks sweat more effectively keeping friction in the shoe to a minimum. We find this is a major factor in the shoes comfort. The Upper also fits better over the arch and top of the foot. The wider toe box gives your forefoot lots of room while the rest of the upper keeps your foot from moving too much in the shoe.


All in all we found the Altra ONE 2.5 to be absolutely fantastic! Lightweight, comfortable, and very fast. The ONE 2.5 is a solid option if you have been running in Zero Drop shoes on the trail. If it is good for Zach Bitter we are pretty sure it is good for us!

The Altra ONE 2.5 is available from the RUN Specialist Store in Cape Town. 7 – 11 Bree Street. The shoe retails for around R1599.00

PUMA FAAS 500v2 Trail Shoe review

PUMA have come along way since the days of the NightFox and the TrailFox trail shoes, so far in fact that it is almost hard to believe that those shoes and the shoe we are reviewing today come from the same stable. Not to say that the previous models were bad. Rather it is a testament to how technology and science behind manufacturing, state of the art, performance gear has advanced. As trail running popularity is growing in leaps and bounds (excuse the pun) all the major shoe manufacturer’s are keeping their fans happy with gear purpose built for smashing through the toughest of terrains. Some go a more balanced route like the PUMA FAAS 300v2 Trail Shoe which we reviewed a few months back and some go all out manic!

We are happy to report that PUMA have not neglected the most hardcore of the trail running community. Those that shun the idea of having to put time on the road, those of us who are offended by single shot skinny latte’s. Those of us who would rather have a double shot full cream cortado put some extra hairs on our chest. You get balanced and then you get crazy, and that is how we would describe the Faas 500v2 TR… certifiably nuts!! I mean just look at them…

Aggression personified in a shoe!

Now before we get ahead of ourselves we are not saying that PUMA have nailed it and can now sit back, rest on their laurels while the other brands try to catch up. No, not at at all. They have come a long way since the TrailFox released in 2006 but they still have a ways to go, but more on that later. Lets dig into the specs and see what makes this shoe tick before we make any suggestions on improvements.

OutSole:

Right off the bat you can see these shoes mean business. Just look at that grip. If we had to liken these shoes to an animal it would hands down be a Velociraptor. If the unfortunate humans who became dinosaur food in Jurassic Park were wearing these shoes while running through the jungles we think they might have had a bit more screen time. With the claw like talons protruding from the bottom of the outsole there is plenty of grip, and confidence to go with it. We were almost too nervous to run easy in these shoes for fear of them slapping us and telling us to get a move on! As we see in pretty much every PUMA running shoe the Faas 500v2 TR features the brilliant ‘EverGrip’ technology which according to PUMA is ‘Abrasion-resistant’. If by ‘Abrasion-resistant’ they mean that the shoe doesn’t wear very fast then yes, I would say it is very ‘Abrasion-Resistant.’ I was happy to see that the lugs on the outsole did not crack or break off after some pretty long (7 hours plus on one instance at UTCT) and technical runs. Value for money will always be a major factor when purchasing a new pair of shoes and for us these shoes score brilliantly in durability. Think DuraCell Bunny. Multi-Direction lugs give you plenty grip on the up hills, through the technical singletrack and also provide some breaking force on the down hills.

Claw-like outsole.

MidSole:

The Faas 500v2 TR has a slightly more plush ride than the Fass 300v2 TR we mentioned earlier. With a stack height of 22mm at the forefoot and 26mm at the heel and a 4mm footbed there is plenty of cushioning without completely taking away any feedback you might want to get from the trail. A 4mm heel-to-toe drop encourages a midfoot strike which we like a lot. Even though you get some extra cushioning you won’t sacrifice on the weight. The shoes still weight in around the 340g mark. As the name suggests the Faas 500v2 TR features PUMA’s lightweight and versatile Faas foam midsole. The midsole is built to provide a more gradual transition from heel to midfoot by slowing down the rate of pronation. This is done by some ‘release grooves’ in the midsole. These grooves give a little more flex to the midsole by dispersing the force generated from running evenly throughout the midsole. While we found this worked fantastically well on hard pack or more ‘flatter’ surfaces unfortunately it did add a bit of instability on the super technical terrain. We found there was a little too much lateral movement at times causing the ankle to roll slightly to the outside of the shoe. Nothing major, but just enough to be aware of it. In terms of cushioning the midsole felt exactly like a Faas midsole, consistent in that it was comfy and smooth as the Faas foam is.

Plenty of grip to open the taps with confidence.

Upper:

This is where version 2 has received the most upgrades from the first version of the Faas 500 TR. The Upper has been upgraded with PUMA’s WeaveMesh technology. This provides the midfoot with a lot more support and really does make the shoe feel snug and fit well. One thing we notice with more ‘cushioned, higher mileage’ shoes is that they can feel cumbersome and a bit sluggish but the Faas 500v2 TR does very well to still give you a spring in your step. The WeaveMesh plays a big part in this. The Gaiter-compatibility and the Gusseted tongue will keep debris and unwanted irritations like little stones etc. out of the shoe, a welcome advantage when running for hours on end. PUMA were one of the first major brands to feature Ortholite’s EcoOrthoLite technology in their shoes. The technology has proved to be very popular and the Faas 500v2 TR features a sockliner made of that same technology. The benefits of this include advanced breathability, moisture control, and anti-microbial properties. All of these aid in preventing chaffing. Another great advantage for those long runs.

We also found that the heel cup and tongue of the shoe came up nice and high on the ankle which provide great support on the technical stuff. Even though the release grooves in the midsole let the shoe down a bit the added support on the ankle more than made up for it. Having said that if you prefer more movement around the ankle this shoe might not work for you.

The Upper as a whole looks incredibly solid. We have yet to see any tears or breakages in the mesh after a good few long runs in some dense terrain.

EcoOrthoLite Technology in the sock liner.

What would we improve?

So earlier I said that PUMA have come a long way since the TrailFox but that we still feel they have a little way to go before they have an industry changer on their hands (in the trail shoe department). As great as this shoe is we still believe there is something missing. You see I unfortunately blame Puma for this. I blame them because of a little shoe called the PUMA IGNITE. The IGNITE midsole has ruined the Faas midsole (and almost any other midsole for that matter) for me, the one piece IGNITE foam is so insanely comfortable and responsive the Faas foam feels like a stack of A4 pieces of paper stuck on top of each other with Pritt glue. Don’t get me wrong, the Faas midsole is comfortable! It has worked for PUMA for years! I have an 8 hour trail run in the blistering rain at the 2015 Ultra Trail Cape Town with no blisters or sore feet to prove it. The Faas midsole is fantastic, but stacked against the IGNITE midsole it doesn’t even come close.

We hope a day will come when PUMA start bringing out trail shoes with the IGNITE midsole as a feature, for us that would be a game changer! On that day Trail Runners perception of PUMA as a trail running shoe will literally change forever. Unfortunately that probably won’t be a reality for a good year or two, maybe even 3. So we will just have to be happy with the Faas foam for now, till our dreams of an IGNITE Trail are realised.