Tuesday, May 30, 2006
TRAINING FOR MOUNTAIN RUNNING
UPHILL RUNNING --- by John Harding
Running in mountain and other uphill races can be made much easier and performance greatly improved by specific training. Running uphill involves vigorous employment of all of the limbs of the body and of the cardiovascular system. The elite uphill performer has the following physiological characteristics:
* high aerobic capacity
* strong ankles
* very strong quadricep, hip and gluteal muscles
* well toned stomach muscles
* arms that can maintain a vigorous action for long periods without tiring and losing 'form'
The first objective for the serious mountain runner aiming to improve uphill performance is to develop these characteristics through an appropriate package of training measures. A secondary objective is to avoid short term injury and long term over-use problems. The latter is very important and implies care needs to be taken in the timing, intensity and duration of a focused hill training program. The downside of, for example, very strong quad, hip and gluteal muscles is that if the hamstrings and stomach muscles are weaker in comparison, then the muscle imbalance may lead to injury.
Year round activities to improve uphill running
1. A high training volume
The first and most important pre-requisite for uphill running is high aerobic capacity. If you huff and puff and feel tired as soon as you start running up a moderate slope, you are going to be in big trouble if the slope continues for very long. To run up a mountain, you must have very good endurance so that the legs and arms do not tire too soon, and you must have very good aerobic capacity so that the aerobic threshold is high enough to avoid anaerobic wastes clogging the muscles until nearing the finish.
2. Overload and recovery workouts
Endurance levels are increased by overload and recovery workouts so that muscles are heavily fatigued and glycogen levels greatly depleted followed by easier days in which repair, replenishment and strengthening occurs. For the mountain runner, regular long runs and long bike rides throughout the year are the best options for optimum results, although long mountain hikes are also both pleasurable and effective, especially in events such as 12 hour and 24 hour rogaines through rugged country.
Overload workouts are also among the best forms of psychological preparation for mountain running because the mind is then trained to tolerate long periods of tiredness. Hence the runner finds it much easier to cope with relatively short periods of intense fatigue up steep sections in mountain races.
Over eighty per cent of elite mountain runners in Australia do a significant amount of cycling as part of their training. Cycling greatly strengthens the quadriceps and stomach muscles, while avoiding the foot strike pounding of running. The quadriceps muscles in the front of the upper leg are the engine room muscles for both cycling and running uphill.
4. Upper body work
Strong but not overly muscled arms greatly assist uphill running performance and keep the muscles in balance, and a couple of short weight training sessions a week throughout the year using moderate (not heavy) weights achieve this goal of adequate upper body strength. A useful form of upper body work is swimming which has the added benefit of extra aerobic conditioning. A mix of fast and slow laps tends to be more beneficial than steady continuous swimming. The cold water from a pool or river or beach also tends to speed up recovery from hard workouts.
5. Stomach strengthening
Stomach strengthening exercises include sit-ups and doing cycling motions with the legs while the back is flat on the floor. Strong stomach muscles keep the spine well supported, assist good running form and help avoid lower back, hip and pelvic overuse injuries.
Both uphill and downhill running fully extend the muscles in the front and the back of the legs. Hence a high level of flexibility is needed both to maximise speed and to avoid injury. This means maintaining a good stretching program as a routine throughout the year, and before racing having a good warmup and stretching regime.
Posted by Run HappyFeet at 2:28 PM