Runners are constantly climbing. It’s in our nature to always have a goal we’re working towards, always wanting to push ourselves to do better. Whether it be chasing new PR’s, challenging yourself to expand your race distance range, or even after we’re past our ‘PR-PR’ years, redefining the times and bests (weekly, yearly, masters, etc.) bests.
Trail running makes you strong. It can also make you faster. “But wait,” you think, “I look down at my
watch Garmin afterwards and the times are slower!” Ahhh…it all comes back to effort, My Dears, effort.
Hills take a LOAD more effort running up than running on the flats. #lessonfromcommonsense Haha. Force those legs of yours to put in the extra effort needed to get up those inclines thought and you’ll build power. Now a lesson in running mathematics:
Because we’ve ALL had those prickly bush fantasies in the middle of a workout or race. “I’ll bet hucking myself into that tangle of nettles will be a LOT less painful than what I’m doing now.”
It may not always be a prickly bush, but the mind certainly has a crazy way of looking for any excuse to get you to stop running. Fighting those ‘excuses’ and telling yourself to IGNORE that whiney voice inside your head is something ALL runners deal with. Constantly.
Unless you’re racing on a track, there’s SOME kind of terrain you’ll need to be prepared for come gun-time. Even during track season athletes have much to gain from varying the terrain on their workouts.
- Power and Speed: Hills build strength and when taken to flats that translates to speed. That same kind of logic applies to doing repeats on grass, the times may be ‘slower’ but you’re working harder and building strength.
- Injury Prevention: Running on softer, more forgiving surfaces helps reduce impact and thus lowers your chances for injuries in the long-term.
- Diversity: Running is a very repetitive action and mostly only working in a single, horizontal plane. At least by varying things slightly you’re able to give your body a bit of diversity; if you fail to do this, smaller muscles get weak and imbalances become injuries in waiting.
Those are all general reasons why mixing up your running terrain is a good idea, but if you know your actual race course will have key elements you’ll need to be prepared for, it’s even more important to introduce those same obstacles in training.
When it comes to your choice of terrain, what kind of runner are you? Do you crave the speed of the track, the solitude of a long trail run, dodging car splash on the roads, or zoing out on the treadmill?
sucked in forced to watch one of the episodes of The Bachelor (that Ben guy, am I the only one who finds him a bit of a scruffy version of Dax Shepard?) where they were in Park City, UT and he was saying how he’s an ‘outdoorsy’ guy. He likes to be out in the woods chopping trees, riding horseback, fishing, and such. All I could think was, “Dang, I would be sucking wind out there on any runs.” Then some flashbacks to some particularly gnarly runs in Park City followed that.
Jack and Jill ran up a hill to make them faster runners. Jack fell down ‘cuz he couldn’t keep pace and Jill went barreling up faster. I think I like that nursery rhyme better, don’t you?
Hill running, hill repeats, hill tempos, hilly switch-backs, hilly long runs. All of them can improve your strength and speed as a runner. Some people seem to think that runners fall into one of two categories: hill runners or flat runners. To some degree it’s true, you may naturally be better at climbing than someone else, but that doesn’t mean you can’t improve by running hill.