In the last 5 or so years we’ve seen a massive leap forward, especially in this country of the quality of trail runners and the times they are posting at races.
It is a natural evolutionary trend that as we spend more time developing a sport and those people within it, that performances will continue to improve… to a point.
We see it in other sports too; a classic example is how the body types and athleticism in AFL football has changed over the last 15+ years. The major difference is that now the athletes in football train smarter and more specifically for their sport.
What I’m going to talk about today is the need for Trail Runners to develop a very specific component of fitness that will help them stand apart from the crowd on the trails.
Power can be defined as the combination of Speed and Strength, and is that almost mystical quality that the front runners have in a trail race when you see them go bounding up a rocky trail even faster than most people can run down it.
Power can be developed by simply spending more time running hard on technical trails, but there are things you can do to supplement your normal Trail Running that will dramatically enhance your ability to let loose that Power when you need it most.
To develop a powerful body that is truly ‘Trail Ready’, it is also critical that you incorporate balance and stability exercises into your routine.
What you will end up with is stable joints (from the feet up) that will provide you with full body functional stability (balance) and a strong platform from which to utilize the Power you have developed. Get this combination right and you will float over the trails like a bird.
From a practical point of view, I recommend at least one session per week that focuses on developing explosive power through the legs that also incorporates Core Strengthening and Balancing Exercises
It is possible to construct really effective Power based cross training session and complete it in 20-30 minutes. You might be amazed by how hard these sessions can be but also how much of an improvement they can make.
A simple exercise you might like to try that is great for Trail Runners, is to place an object in front of you that is about 50-70cm high, and standing with both feet on the ground, jump high over the object and land on the other side on one leg only. Land as softly as you can to absorb the shock through the ankle and knee on the landing leg. Turn quickly, put the other foot back down and repeat back the other way landing on the other leg. You will soon start to feel this right through the hip, knee and ankle stabilizers and your glutes, quads and calves will tell you all about it the next day!
This exercise is so great because of the explosiveness of the jumping movement, combined with the stability required to control the landing.
We at Brewsters Running are currently in the process of developing two 6 week Power based cross training programs specifically for trail runners that can be incorporated into your training and small enough to fit into your lunch break. We are very excited about what this will do for our reader’s running abilities and we are currently constructing and trialing the program. Keep a look out for this one to be released soon.
In the meantime, jump on YouTube and find a video of a Mountain Goat running up the side of a mountain… that right there is the perfect example of what happens when Speed and Strength combine with Stability and Balance.