Tips to help trail runners get more from their workout

At one time or another, all runners experience a plateau, and no matter how hard or far they run, they don’t see the sort of progress they want to make. If that sounds like you, don’t worry, you’re not alone. This is simply something that comes from having a set trail running workout that you stick to. Mixing that routine up a bit with a few trail running training tips from the experts can put you back at the start of another progress curve.

1. Put more work in at the gym

For many trail runners, the simplest thing they can do to freshen up their trail running workout is to start introducing a few sessions at the gym. Some trail runners mistakenly assume that gym sessions are the enemy of progress, but strategic training that focuses on strengthening the core and legs can give you a noticeable boost when you’re out on the trails. Simple exercises such as lunges, squats and single leg squats can increase your leg power, while plank variations and bicycle work can help to strengthen your core. Just two 30–45-minute gym sessions a week can provide lasting benefits.

2. Mix up your distances

It’s only natural for trail runners to find a distance they like and stick to it, assuming any further will be a struggle and shorter distances will not provide the same benefits. However, the opposite is actually true. Chopping and changing the distances you cover in your trail running training can provide much greater benefits. For example, if you’re used to running 10K races, take on some additional mileage and push yourself beyond the limits you’ve set yourself. The likelihood is that you’ll surprise yourself with what you can achieve. Equally, if you typically cover longer distances, signing up for a shorter distance and ramping up the effort can provide a refreshing change of pace.

3. Include more rest days

When your progress has hit a brick wall, the likelihood is that you’ll attempt to increase your trail running training to try and get over that hump, when, in fact, doing less may be what it takes to deliver the boost you need. Recovery days are crucial to your performance, and if you’re the sort of person who takes your trail running seriously, you might find taking a break from your training regimen difficult to do. However, rest days are an essential part of your trail running workout. Running causes microscopic tears in your muscles, due to the impact load. A rest day allows those tears to recover, reducing your risk of overuse injuries and stress fractures so you that can run stronger.

4. Run to the hills

With the busy lives we lead, many trail runners cover the same routes over and over again, simply because they’re convenient and close to home. The downside is that they get used to running a single route profile and do not push their bodies or minds in different ways. Introducing more hills into your trail running workout, both up- and downhill, can boost your confidence and improve your technique. While runs that cover significant gradients might not be as fun as your usual route, they will help to boost your uphill power and potentially turn a weakness into a strength.

5. Try harder!

A trap that some trail runners fall into is racing against the clock rather than focusing on their effort. One way to help you to push past old boundaries is to run certain sections of the trail, perhaps an uphill or technical section, with greater effort than you’re used to. Rather than running the complete trail, run the same section of the trail a number of times, keeping each run short but fast-paced. You’ll need to take regular breaks, as pushing much harder will make you more fatigued. However, over time, the work you put in on that single section of the trail will pay off when you incorporate it into the route as a whole.

6. Change your shoes

You’d be amazed just how much difference a good pair of trail-running shoes can make. You may have already invested in a quality pair of shoes, but they might not be a good fit for your running style or the type of trail running training you’re doing. Doing plenty of research and picking shoes that are well suited to the terrain you’re running on can provide the extra confidence you need. Take a look at our trail running shoe guide to find out more.

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