Written by Salomon Ambassador, Sam Robinson.
Much like the singer Meghan Trainor, here at Ragnar we’re all about that base. In this case, we are all about helping you build base fitness to tackle the miles and hills of Ragnar Trail Relay events. There are innumerable ways to tinker your training for peak fitness, but a few key fundamentals will provide a fitness foundation for a successful Ragnar. So here are three tips for building your base fitness for Ragnar Trail:
1) Steady, Easy Running: Time on Your Feet.
The most crucial component of base fitness is simply spending extended time running at an easy pace. One of the most common mistakes runners make is running too hard for too much of their training. Steady, non-intense running is vital for strengthening your legs, improving your metabolism, and making your energy systems more efficient. Upwards of 70-80% of your training runs should be at a comfortable pace—a speed your body naturally wants to fall into during a low to moderate exertion level.
But, you might ask, how can I tell if I’m running easy? A good rule of thumb is that you should be able to hold a fairly nuanced conversation with another runner during an easy run. If you find yourself feeling winded, or unable to speak, or really uncomfortable, you should slow down. You might find that in order to run at an easy pace you need to run very slow or even walk up steeper hills. That’s perfectly fine. Indeed, having the discipline to slow down will pay big dividends in the long term!
2) Shred the Gnar: Hill Climbing Intervals
Most Ragnar Trail races entail extensive uphill climbing and downhill running. For example, in the Ragnar Trail Tahoe Relay the longest loop of seven miles climbs and descends an epic 700 feet! To prepare, you want your harder efforts to focus on specific training that will enable you to get up and down the hills as effectively and safely as possible. One staple workout is to run sets up a nice long hill, preferably on a trail, for an extended interval of time. Find a large, long hill with an incline between 8-10% grade. Run a 2-minute interval up the climb, running at about 80-85% of your total effort (a pretty hard pace). When you reach the end of the interval, take a few moments at the top to catch your breath, and then jog very easy on the descent. Try to be nearly recovered by the time you reach the bottom. Then repeat for 3-5 more intervals!
If you don’t have access to a hill, you can adapt this workout to a treadmill: Elevate the treadmill’s grade to 8-10%. Make sure you run a pace you can maintain safely. When you reach the top, pause the treadmill and hop off for your recovery. If you are unsure about what pace/speed you should run on the treadmill, here is a guide that converts climbing pace to an equivalent flat-running effort.
3) Long Runs
When it comes to developing base fitness, long runs are one of the most important pieces of the puzzle. Long runs are steady-paced runs upwards of 90 minutes in duration. Generally, a long run should be about 25% of your total running for the week. Running for an extended period of time in a single run will develop your body’s aerobic capacities—i.e. the ability to uptake oxygen and feed it into your muscles. This will allow you to move efficiently at a faster pace and allow you to excel through the multiple Ragnar loops. Long runs should never be raced. But because Ragnar Trail events are off road on single-track trails and dirt paths, you should try to incorporate a few hilly trails into your long-run route. While the effort should be at a pace that allows you to complete the day’s distance, it will likely feel harder than a shorter easy run.
Long runs are… well, long. So plan ahead before you start. Make sure you have access to water, or carry some with you. Long runs are also a good time to practice taking energy while you are running, including eating gels, chews, and bars.
Now go get training and build the base! Find your next Ragnar Trail Relay here.