Fall running requires more planning and equipment than running in warmer weather, but cold and wintry conditions don’t require you to slow down
Pine cones scattered across the trail. Gravel and dead leaves crunch beneath your soles. The frigid breeze rustling through the trees. Snow still tucked away in the shadiest places – this is fall in the golden landscapes of the Colorado Plateau. It’s hard to imagine a more picturesque backdrop for trail running. But as fall foliage fades into winter, it might be tempting to skip a run and stay bundled up on the couch. Though lack of sunlight may be causing you to feel “winter blues,” this is not the season to backpedal or fall off your running routine. Fall is the perfect time to strive for new personal records. To keep you moving during the chilly months ahead, here are five fall running workouts you can do to increase speed and keep you fit.
Gear Up for the Trails
Unlike the warmer months, trail running in the cold gets dicey and requires a lot more gear. Before working out, consider the winter accessories you’ll need to fend off the chilly weather while training.
● Wool running socks to keep your feet warm.
● Insulated flask for long runs.
● Facemask or balaclavas to block the wind and snow.
● Microspikes to help with traction on ice, packed snow, wet rocks, concrete and scree.
● Headlamp for logging miles in the dark.
1. Walking Lunges
Walking lunges are great exercises for runners because they power your glutes and help develop your quads, hamstrings and calves. It’s a simple drill proven to reduce injury, lengthen runner’s strides and improve single-leg balance. If you’re new to this movement you can opt-out of using weights. If you’re up for the challenge, grab your dumbbells. Women can start with 5-pound dumbbells and work your way up to 8 to 12 pounds. Men can start with 10 to 12 pounds and progress to 15 to 26 pounds.
When you’re ready, stand upright, feet hip-width apart. Begin by inhaling and taking a controlled step forward with your right leg. Dropdown into a lunge. The back knee should point toward the ground but shouldn’t touch the floor. Your front knee should be at a 90-degree angle directly over your ankle.
Your form is critical to avoid injury so make sure your shoulders are back, your chest is lifted, and you’re conscious of your breath. As you lift, exhale, step together, switch legs and repeat. These are excellent isometric exercises to do at home, in a gym or while on the trails enjoying your fall running.
2. Carioca (also known as grapevines)
The carioca drill is a quick, cross-stepping movement that propels the body sideways. It’s great for runners because it improves your hips’ range of motion, improves coordination and lessens your ground contact time. Begin with your feet a few inches apart and face sideways. With your right foot, quickstep behind and pull the left knee up to 90 degrees, or as high as you can. Swivel your hips and swing your arms as you cross your trailing leg in front, then behind, and continue in a sideways direction. You must be quick on your feet for this drill. Shuffle forward as quickly as you can. Go 20 yards in one direction, then 20 yards in the opposite.
3. Walking Knee Hugs
Like all training components, stretching should be “periodized” throughout your training cycle. Periodized training breaks down a training program into specific time periods to optimize peak performance and to avoid overtraining. Walking knee hugs are dynamic stretches you can incorporate into your exercise regimen to target your hamstrings, abs, calves, glutes and hip flexors. Begin by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart. Keep your shoulders back, chest lifted, and maintain a tight core throughout. Lift your left knee up and towards your chest; pull it in as close as you can. Then step forward and repeat on the opposite leg. Hold this stretch for 20 to 40 seconds. For a more intense workout, you can pair knee hugs with walking lunges. Repeat for 10 to 12 repetitions.
4. Hill Sprints
Hill sprints are short, maximum-intensity runs up a steep hill of about 5% to 7% grade. By adding sprints into your training cycle you’ll increase your range of motion at the hip, knee and ankle. You’ll also train your muscles to react to quick changes and varying levels of intensity. Before approaching hill sprints, make sure you’ve properly warmed up with at least 10 minutes of easy jogging. After your warm-up, you’re going to do five rounds of a 12-second all-out sprint up your chosen hill. It’s a short duration but requires max effort. Between sprints, move around and stay warm but don’t start the next sprint until you feel ready. It’s pointless to start another sprint before you’ve fully recovered. For starters, repeat this drill about five times. As you progress in your training you can build up to 10 to 12 repetitions once or twice a week.
5. High Knees
Choosing to incorporate high-knee drills into your training routine is a sure way to increase your speed. High knee drills amplify the running stride, activating your calves, glutes and hamstrings. It also promotes knee lift, and reinforces mid-foot landing and efficient running form. Start by running in place for 30 seconds to one minute, lifting your knees as high as you can. Focus on short, quick steps. Try this for about 50 meters, which is half of the straightaway on a track.
How do you train in the offseason between races? We want to hear from you. Connect with us on the platform of your choice @AdventureProMag.
ASHLEY LOSE is a certified personal trainer and writer traveling full-time in an RV with her husband and their two dogs. You can usually find her running on the trails or kayaking with her dogs.