Trail Running

Trail Running Tips: Trail Speed

Trail Running Tips: Trail Speed

Sarah Seads BA Kinesiology

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Speed work comes in many forms.  From V02max intervals to race pace repeats and anaerobic threshold runs, there are plenty of ways to increase your running fitness through speed work.  But there is a style of speed work that is unique to trail running and one that can only be improved upon by running in the trails...Trail Speed. 
Trail Speed is the ability to move quickly over varied terrain.  This means keeping the pace no matter what obstacles come your way.  Trail speed will improve simply with experience- just as it will on a mountain bike.  With experience comes confidence.  With confidence comes a shift in perspective.  Obstacles appear smaller.  The same terrain feels less technical.  Your feet move faster and you push harder over roots, rocks, logs, ups and downs. 
Training specifically for trail speed will improve this skill exponentially, however.  Including weekly intervals of 'trail speed training' will go a long way to improve your confidence, quickly.  This can be accomplished during a run similar to what we did this week or a 'fartlek'(speed play) run.  Start by running faster over sections of trail that you are very confident on.  This will turn into a fun interval session of various lengths during your run.  Aim to stay light on your feet as if dancing amongst the roots and rocks- never committing to landing with your full weight.  By staying light, you will move quickly and be able to react fast to the changing terrain. Keep your head up and look ahead so that you can anticipate upcoming obstacles and pick your 'line' in advance. The faster you go, the further ahead you need to look.

Next, work on trail speed intervals for a set period of time, say 1-3 minutes, where you aim to keep your speed up regardless of what comes your way.  Within reason of course;)  Safety is always the first priority so it is important to stay within your abilities on the trail.  There is no point in trail speed training if you end up on the couch with a sprained ankle!  Over time, you will notice that your perspective has shifted and you are able to move much more quickly through more difficult terrain.

Cheers and Happy Trails,

Sarah Seads is the owner of Equilibrium Lifestyle Management (ELM), a fitness and rehabilitation business based in the Comox Valley on Vancouver Island. For more information on training ideas and programs go to or call ELM at 338-8998.