By Clint Shultz
1. Use distance running to increase aerobic capacity. Mountain running requires whole-body strength and endurance to hold off muscular oxygen debt as long as possible.
2. Develop mental strength. You can physically condition your body to meet the demands of racing, but your mental strength is what gets you across the finish line. Develop your mental toughness by increasing your mileage and workout intensity to simulate mountain running’s pain, stress, and pounding.
3. Overload some days, recover others. Increase your aerobic endurance by overloading your muscles and depleting your glycogen levels with high-intensity efforts followed by recovery days (involving low-impact activities such as walking or yoga) during which your body repairs and strengthens. An example workout is hill skipping (recommend once or twice a week): skip up a hill using exaggerated, dynamic arm and leg movements to increase the strength and flexibility of your upper and lower body.
4. Cross train on two wheels. Road and mountain biking strengthens the legs and abdomen without contributing to lower-body fatigue. Biking once or twice a week also adds variety to your routine.
5. Strengthen your core. A strong abdomen supports the spine, reduces back pain, chance of overuse injury to the hips. Strengthen your abs with sit-ups, leg raises, flutter kicks. Push-ups and holding a plank position are particularly beneficial.
6. Stretch to prevent injury. Running one to three hours a day may leave little time to stretch, but the importance of taking 10 minutes to stretch before and after a run cannot be overstated. Running uphill and downhill involves full extension of the front and back legs muscles, calf muscles and the Achilles, so these muscles groups must remain supple. Maximize your speed, assist in recovery and prevent injuries with a thorough warm up followed by stretching.
7. Upper/whole body lifting. Achieve muscular strength in the upper and lower body by lifting weights for 30 to 45 minutes, three times a week. The goal of the upper-body workouts is to add strength, not bulk. A strong upper body will help you with steep ascents and assist in maintaining good form during your long runs.
8. Mix it up in the off season. Employ these training principles for only three months, as any longer increases your chances of overuse injury. In the off season, cross train to develop other muscles through hiking, skiing, snowshoeing, or indoor sports like basketball, volleyball and martial arts.
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