How Hiking Can Make You a Faster Trail Runner (Bonus Edition)

Tayte Pollmann’s articles are supported by American Trail Running Association corporate member Nike Trail Running. You can follow Tayte’s adventures on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

As a trail runner, it can be tempting to run every inch of every trail we ever set foot on. Hiking on trails, however, can be a great form of supplemental training and can benefit trail runners in different ways than only them running does. Last month I wrote about four ways hiking can benefit your trail running. After some great feedback on that article, I’ve come up with three more ways hiking can improve your trail running.

Elite French trail runner Mathilde Sagnes negotiating on uneven terrain in the French Pyrénées.

Practice Technique
During your next hike is a great time to incorporate uphill or downhill running technique drills. The goal of these drills is not to perform a workout, but to focus on holding good form while enjoying beautiful trails. For the drills, I choose a marker roughly 25 to 50 yards in front of me on the trail, such as a boulder or tree, and tell myself “I’m going to run to that spot as fast as I can while maintaining good form.” Once I reach my marker, I continue hiking and wait several minutes before repeating. I’ll do this drill throughout my hike, until I am no longer able to hold good form. If you are unsure about what good form looks like, consider attending a running camp or having an experienced running coach watch you run and provide feedback. See my article from last week for an inside look into trail running camps.

Nepalese spending time on challenging terrain from an early age.

Adapt to Difficult Terrain
Challenging terrain, such as trails with many roots and rocks, often make it difficult to run fast. One way to learn how to run faster on difficult terrain is to spend more time on it. Many of the local trail runners in Nepal, whom I met on my trip in November 2018, ran comfortably on incredibly steep and technical trails. Their background hiking these trails –as a means to get from village to village or to guide travelers–helps them accumulate time on challenging terrain. The more time you spend getting accustomed to challenging terrain, the easier it will feel and the easier you’ll be able to run on it. Like many things in life, practice makes perfect.

Hiking in Nepal.

Connect With Nature
Hiking is one of the best ways to connect with nature. Hiking, in comparison to running, allows you to perceive more around you on the trail. You are typically going at a much slower pace, and therefore, you can better take time to listen to birds, the soothing sounds of rivers, or the wind. You can also take a break to enjoy a nice mid-hike picnic with friends and family or to consider a quick dip in a lake. Connecting with nature allows you to reset mentally from the stress of your daily life and create some of your best and long-lasting memories on the trails.

Mathilde taking in the scenery of Bryce Canyon National Park.

Tags: ,