Friday, September 23, 2005

Training For a Mountain Run

My next mini-goal is to complete the uphill 10K, 700 meter (2296 feet), ascent of the Brandenkopf Mountain in the Black Forest on October 9th. Now I have just finished a marathon so I can't jump into an overly intensive training session for the next 2 weeks. However, I am curious how people train for a mountain run so have been doing some surfing and have come up with a few ideas.

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. The good news (for me) is that I obtained a lot of this during my marathon training program, supplemented with the weight training, pushups, sit-ups and occasional hill runs that I performed. Here is what John Harding recommended in an article called “Uphill Running”.

Training Activities That Improve Uphill Running

1. A high training volume to increase aerobic capacity. 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. Perform 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.

3. Cycling. 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.

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.

6. Stretching. 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.

I also found a couple tips for mountain running:

- Running as fast as possible to the top of a hill and then jogging back down tends to be counter-productive.

- A much better method involves bouncing up a hill, with high knee lift and vigorous arm movement that best looks like sprinting in slow motion.

So I think my training so far this year has been in the right direction for this race. Next week I need to head for the hills for at least a couple hill runs and maybe some hill repeats before race day on October 9th.

This goal is way more daunting than a marathon in my mind. I used to live (and run) in Monterey Ca. There is a special place of loathing in my heart for hills. But I hear running them is "good for you." :-)
I'm damn impressed that you are heading into this, Jack. I can't imagine even attempting something like this where I am right now. I hope I feel like you do when I finish my marathon because right now all I want to to do is take a few weeks off and loaf.

"A much better method involves bouncing up a hill, with high knee lift and vigorous arm movement that best looks like sprinting in slow motion."

And when I read this quote, I thought about a shot I saw of Paula Radcliffe in the Piranese (sp?) doing hill training and that was exactly the motion that she had.
You should have acknowledged where you got this material. Why do people think it's OK just to steal content? Either post a link, or explain who actually created it.
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