3 interval sessions to spice up your next trail run

3 interval sessions to spice up your next trail run

Transitioning from roads to trails often demands that runners do some major downshifting, both physically and mentally. Negotiating uneven terrain and surprise obstacles like jutting rocks and tree roots requires a shift to a slower, more deliberate style of running that incorporates shorter strides, strategic foot placement and, depending on the course, a good bit of walking. Expectations must also be adjusted—notions of a “fast” per-kilometre pace will be vastly different on trails than on flat, paved surfaces.

But while the adventure of trail running generally plays out at a slower pace, there’s still a place for speedwork. Incorporating interval sessions can not only spice up your trail runs, but also help you transition into a more efficient runner.

woman trail running
Photo: Unsplash/Andreas Siimon

benefits of intervals

Intervals—alternating periods of high-intensity effort followed by recovery periods—can help runners increase their cardiovascular fitness and develop greater endurance. It can also stretch anaerobic capacity, of particular benefit to trail runners when tackling steep climbs and challenging terrain. By pushing runners out of their comfort zone, interval work can also help build mental stamina and focus, and further develop the stamina needed to cover difficult terrain and cope with periods of fatigue.

Try incorporating one of these three interval sessions into your weekly training routine. All have the makings of a challenging workout, but one may be better suited to the trails in your area, depending on the lay of the land.

hill repeats

For those with access to a trail with a large, steep hill or incline, hill repeats offer a simple but strenuous workout and a challenging change of pace. For this workout, sprint uphill at maximum effort for 30 to 60 seconds, and either jog or walk back to the bottom. Do this for six to eight repetitions while focusing on maintaining good form.

Pyramid intervals

This workout is well suited to long, flat sections of trail, but can also be run on the road or track. Begin with a 400-metre sprint at a challenging pace, followed by a two-minute easy recovery run. Up the distance of your next intervals to 800, 1,200 and 1,600 meters, with recovery jogs, and then work your way back down in 400-metre increments, finishing with the 400-metre interval.

Photo: Kevin Mackinnon

tabata intervals

These intense short-burst intervals are suited for straight, level stretches of trail. Run at maximum effort for 20 seconds, followed by a 10-second recovery run, repeating for eight rounds.

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