Welcome to 2019! The New Year is a perfect opportunity to set new racing goals. Although it’s tempting to sign up for races we already know and enjoy, it’s also beneficial to train for new types of races. Here are three ways training for new types of races can increase your longevity and help you discover new strengths.
Gain New Strengths
In the Fall of 2015 I switched my training from a summer of high mileage and steep scrambling in the Wasatch Mountains of Utah, to speedy cross country training in the forests of Portland, Oregon. After several months of cross country training, I entered my first marathon, the Moab Trail Marathon in Moab, Utah. There, I posted my best performance in the trail marathon distance – a third place (3:11.08) in the USATF Trail Marathon Championship event (photo above).
Although my cross country training was definitely not trail marathon specific, the mixture of strength and high mileage from the summer in the Wasatch Mountains and speed training in Portland combined for a winning recipe in Moab. Similar success stories have been recorded by coaches, like elite distance running coach, Brad Hudson, who has documented how his professional runners training for marathons have improved their 5K times. Training for a new distance may seem counterintuitive, but it can lead to obtaining a missing strength in your training and result in a breakthrough.
Work New Muscle Groups
Many coaches and athletes cite cross training and strength routines as keys to longevity and success. Coach of Some Work, All Play (SWAP), David Roche, suggests biking as an essential element for several of his athletes to enhance aerobic development. The scientific literature on distance running confirms that aerobic development is an integral component of training for all distance runners. Improving the aerobic engine in ways that have less impact on the body’s joints, such as biking, is a good way to get faster and stay healthy.
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Elite trail runner, Kilian Jornet, spends nearly six months each year not running. Instead, he competes in the popular European sport of ski mountaineering, also called “SkiMo.” The sport involves both uphill and downhill skiing on steep terrain, which gives Kilian hours of aerobic training without the impact of running. Skiing gives Jornet the ability to spend more hours training than he ever could running, which translates to an even stronger aerobic system when he returns to trail racing in early summer. Although this approach may not work for every trail runner, Jornet shows how the benefits of cross training translate directly to running.
One of the best ways to stay motivated to train is to continually try new things. Veteran mountain/trail/track/road/cross country runner and 2011 World Mountain Running Champion, Max King, cites this belief as key to his longevity and how he has been able to train consistently at the elite level for many years.
In addition to his success at the World Mountain Running Championships, King is also an IAU 100K World Champion, 2:14 marathoner, Spartan Race champion, 8:30 steeplechaser, 100 mile competitor, and winner of a 10K while pulling his 2-year-old daughter, Hazel, in a Kidrunner running stroller. Mixing it up can make training more fun and keeps the mind and body actively engaged to adapt in new ways and avoid burnout.
Be like Max; add something new to your racing!