Tips for the Trail - Training Strategies To Run Your Best XTERRA Trail Races

Jul. 5, 2013

By Rachel Cieslewicz


It is halfway through the year full of awesome 2013 racing, XTERRA style.  Ideally training, racing, and resting rhythms are a pattern of consistency creating balance, fitness, and health in your life.  As the season moves forward, your fitness may be to the point of needing shift to continue your abilities to develop and grow as a runner while finding your own ultimate running potential.

Traditionally, running is improved with an increase in mileage.  For trail running, time spent training, rather than mileage, is a better scenario to a meet your goals and avoid injury.  Other ways to gain fitness and improve running results are to focus on quality training, the number of workouts in a week, or by cross training.  Choose to focus on your goals for the season, while evaluating and advancing your current fitness. This will guide you to "Live More" and run your best XTERRA trail races ever.

To safely add mileage, it is important to remember that small incremental increases up to 10 percent a week is ideal for the road. Trail running can be an entirely different world. For instance, if you live on flatter ground with smooth running paths, an increase in mileage works. But if you stick mostly to trails with many technical aspects or a lot of elevation changes, increasing mileage can be too much.  A great idea is to keep track of how much time your running workouts generally take you, and increase that time by 10 percent weekly, out on the trails.  Remember, it is important to take 5-7 days of light training and rest after every 4-6 weeks in order to continue your path to ultimately becoming a stronger healthy athlete while decreasing risk of injury or burnout.

Perhaps the thought of an increase in training time would be great, but it already feels taxing to be where you are now.  That is something to look at. Be certain first that you don't need a few days off to rejuvenate.

An easy solution to add in more time being out in nature is to increase each run by five or ten minutes. This may not seem like much, but over the course of a week if you ran an extra ten minutes a day over six workouts, it would add up to an hour more work than you thought you could do before.

Another thought is to continue what you are doing during each respective run and add in an additional one or two short runs a week.  My favorite is to do an interval workout in the morning while I am fresh and then in the afternoon or evening take an easy run with someone who is generally slower so I remember to relax and enjoy while clearing my legs for the next day of training.

You don't necessarily have to increase time running to become a better runner.  The quality of running is just as, if not even more, important than time training.  This can be accomplished by running hill or speed intervals to help your body adapt to a faster pace.

Drills are another way to give your running quality and purpose. I am a huge fan of drills to improve running form. One of my favorite drills is to feel what it is to run leaning from the ankles, rather than the hips. First stand 2-3 feet from a wall and lean into it with a straight tall body and catch yourself with your hands 3-5 times.  You should feel your abs tighten as your core engages.  Next take this same drill to your run by leaning forward from your ankles in the same manner and instead of reaching hands out, step a foot out and continue into a run.  This assists in running from the core and allows gravity to propel you forward.

Finally, another way to improve fitness and save yourself from too much impact, is cross training. I split my time between running and cycling.  I am on my bicycles about as often as I run.  This form of training is helpful for me as I easily go back and forth between racing the two disciplines.  The time on my bike refreshes my mind as it is something different, gives me a great workout without the impact of a run, and allows me to train muscle groups not necessarily trained in a run to create a more balanced and less injury prone happy body.  Cross training can be as simple as a once a week bicycle ride or swim.

Learn what works best for your body and evolve from there.  The most important objective is to enjoy your training so you can "Live More" and love the process. Showing up on race day with excitement because you are fit, healthy and happy will lead to your best results ever. You will find your own ultimate running potential.

Rachel Cieslewicz is an elite runner and triathlete based in St. George, Utah. She is a past winner of several XTERRA Trail Run events, including the XTERRA Lake Las Vegas Trail Run, and placed ninth overall in the women's field at the 2012 XTERRA Trail Run World Championship at Kualoa Ranch, Hawaii. She is a talented sports massage therapist, Pilates and yoga instructor, and is a certified running form and endurance coach. She can be reached atrcanyon1 [at] ()  or visit her website atwww.newageathlete.comor follow her


Tips for the Trail