Trail Running Tips: Uphill Trekking

Trail Running Tips: Uphill Trekking Technique

Sarah Seads BA Kinesiology

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In the world of trail running, TREK is not a 4-letter word. When it gets too steep to run strong, it is faster and smarter to switch to a trek.  Keep pushing the biggest gear you can for as long as you can but when you can no longer keep the run going then it is time to switch to trekking- fast!  There are different trekking techniques for different paces, terrain and of course personal preference. Here are a few that you can try on your next vertical trail run.
1. On moderately steep climbs the goal is always to move as quickly as possible up up up...marching quickly and driving your arms back and down to help set the pace for your legs.  Just because you stopped running doesn't mean it is time to slow down!  March fast and cover as much ground as you can with each step.
2. On loooong steep climbs (think ultra marathons and events at altitude), where energy conservation is critical, the 'Rest Step' is a mountaineering technique that will save your calves & quads from early fatigue.  When completing the  'Rest Step' correctly you will actually be able to rest your muscles momentarily by transferring your weight to your skeleton for a moment with each step.   To perfect the 'Rest Step' takes practice and patience as it must be done at a slow pace.  On very steep terrain try this:  Step up and place all of your weight on the foot of the lead leg, keeping the weight distributed evenly under your foot...Lift yourself directly up by straightening your leg and pressing your knee back into full extension-so that your 'bones' take your weight and your muscles enjoy a very brief moment of rest.  Pause for a brief moment (this is the 'rest').  Repeat...over and over and over:).  This is a slower paced trekking technique- and designed to conserve energy.
3. And finally, when it is crazy steep, you are getting tired and you need a little help to keep the pace up, you can recruit some help...Put your hands on your thighs and drive down hard with each big step!  Head down and hands on the thighs is for the hardest of climbs and helps to share the work with your upper body.  That, or invest in some trekking poles;)

Cheers and Happy Trails,