Some of you hardcore trail runners out there would rather get a root canal than workout at a gym, or worse, run on a treadmill inside. But don’t underestimate the power of cross-training - even indoor training and not running. Some of these plyometric style workouts will pay off during technical trail races and on those steep hills you think you can run up, but have to walk up, sometimes using your arms. (And we know you've walked at trail races...)
Speaking of roots, any of you who’ve run the steep, root-y and rocky technical trails of The North Face Endurance Challenge at Bear Mountain, or similar fun yet challenging trail ultras know you need to do more than just run to navigate those trails, and to get faster and lighter on your toes. You must add in a variety of plyometrics and cross-training.
If you think that the only way you can get in good training for your next trail race or ultramarathon this cold and snowy winter is by running in boots or freezing your feet on snowy trails, read on. And you do not have to suffer like a hamster going in circles on a dreadmill. There are tons of fun off-season trail training workouts you can do to prep and give you a great race boost:
It may seem like a strange workout to help improve running and training, but rowing is a great full body workout! Rowing works both upper and lower body muscles. Your shoulders, chest, arms, abs, glutes and back are the main muscles worked – which are obviously the same muscles you need for running. Every row is close to doing an arm dumbbell row at the gym. In addition, you can burn anywhere from 250 to 500 calories per hour (depending body/gender). And who else here has used their upper body to climb Timp Pass? Uh, yes, so you know what we mean.
We know runners and trail runners don’t want to walk on trails, but often a hike is even better exercise than running. Here's a good article in Trail Runner Mag on how to hike the "right" way. Hiking with a backpack on can burn approximately 400 to 650 calories per hour. If you want to step it up, do what our amazing ultrarunner friend Tom does and put 6 x 2-litre filled water bottles in your pack for some added weight (and hydration, of course). Bonus: being outside in mountains and forest on trails is great for the mind as it helps clear your head, and pump lots of blood to the brain. So at the least, hiking will bring your head in focus and clear your mind of stress to make your life happier. And you get to see nice views and hang out with friends doing something fun (see photo, right). And isn’t that enough? Which brings us to...
Okay, maybe this isn't cross-training, but clearing your mind and focusing is key for trail running and racing. We're big fans of mindfulness, meditation, running without music (or any distractions), and instead running while listening to the breath. We've recommended Chi Running here many times, it's a great for learning how to breathe the right way when you run. ("This is your brain. This is your brain on meditation". Any questions?)
Planning to do go to dinner and a movie? Eh, liven up your weekend plans (and possibly your love life?!) with some fun "crosstraining" -- go out dancing or take a dance class. We've talked about dancing as plyometrics crosstraining here in this post, and here. We like dancing, if you can't tell. Dancing and dance classes is not just a great cardio workout...it's actually fun! It can also be a great workout you and your significant other to do together. Especially if he/she isn't a runner and misses you for hours and hours when you're out running on the weekends. If you live in NYC, go to the monthly after work dance party The Get Down (left) with Tasha Blank, where you can dance for hours, stay sober and be home by 10:15pm. If you took a salsa dancing class, you can burn anywhere from 200 to 500 calories an hour, and your psoas and hip flexors might benefit from all the quick hip movements. And remember what it's like running from rock to rock during a trail race? Same movements, different location (and outfit). Get dancing.
Cardio Kickboxing is also a fun workout that will prep your legs for those steep, rocky technical trails while also burning fat and kicking your butt. Literally. We take Amira Lamb’s Cardio Kickboxing at NYSC (right) and it’s pretty much an hour of fast plyometrics - lots of jumps, kicks, bend downs, jump ups, skips, hops, steps and so on. The full body exercise of kickboxing works-out almost each upper and lower-body muscle group. In addition, your lungs get a great workout and the interval workout increases your VO2 max (read more about VO2 here the importance of VO2). An hour of cardio kickboxing also not only leaves you dripping sweat, but burning 300 to 800 calories. Kickboxing is a great (and fun) workout to boost endurance and get better on those rocky trails.
Have you ever tried boxing? Well, consider this your warning – don’t make any plans to do much of anything for a few days after your first boxing class. It is an amazing workout! Boxing works muscles you never knew you had – like these crazy small ones in the back and every little ab and oblique muscle that exists. It also gets you moving fast on your toes, forward and back, side to side. These are
Cross Country skiing
Sure most of you already know that cross country skiing is a great workout. Well, or at least it might feel like a great workout because many runners, at least here in NYC, only cross country ski 1-2 times a year at most. Regardless, it's a close workout...you just have to go a bit longer to equal a running workout. I.E. to get in about a ten-mile run, you have to ski for around two hours. But that's not a problem since it's beautiful outside, there's so much to explore, and you'd want at least a few hours to enjoy it. Results from this study suggest that cross-country skiing and running of the same duration and intensity at each session for 9-10 weeks improved equally the cardiorespiratory fitness of untrained middle-aged men. Hal Higdon's run training has some good suggestions on cross country skiing, including this how to get started skiing (for running) guide.
Haven't gone trail running yet? If not, you're missing out. Do yourself a huge favor and sign up for one of these #ECS races and get training!
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