Become a Sustainable Athlete – Ultra Running Magazine
As we begin to ramp up the running season, most trail runners and ultrarunners are increasing their training volume. Hot weather and long days require more time on the trails. This increased training load, in turn, can lead to an increased risk of injury. Here are some helpful injury avoidance tips for those new to the sport of trail running and ultrarunning.
Prioritize fueling before, during and after training sessions
One of the most important habits trail runners and ultrarunners can establish is to refuel and hydrate before, during, and immediately after all training sessions. Start your runs well fueled and plan to carry calories and hydration for any rides that will last longer than 60-90 minutes. If fueling up during your workouts is new to you, start small by introducing easy-to-eat calories (gels, gummies or gel blocks, and liquid calories, for example). Aim for 20 to 30 grams of carbs per hour initially. When you start training your digestive tract to use nutrition during exercise (yes, this aspect can be trained), start increasing your total grams of carbs per hour, up to 1.5 grams per kilogram of body weight per hour, which is usually the highest amount. of carbohydrates that can be absorbed by runners during exercise. A general recommendation for fluids is around 0.5 L per hour for cooler temperatures and up to 1.5 L per hour for hot conditions. Sodium replacement needs for most athletes range between 400 and 800 mg per hour, although some runners lose less and others much more. The 400 to 800 mg per hour is a reasonable starting point, anticipating that your needs might be different and may require adjustments as you experiment with sodium replacement. Just be sure to hydrate alongside sodium replacement, otherwise you can put your physiology in a compromised or even dangerous situation.
Within 15-30 minutes of your recovery, start rehydrating and replacing calories so your body can effectively initiate the repair process. Having the building blocks needed to repair the muscle and connective tissue breakdown that occurs during workouts will help your body do what you ask of it in your next run. Beyond calories, if your body is sufficiently hydrated, those calories will be more easily absorbed through the intestinal wall. Hydration and caloric intake are synergistic and therefore very important. Whether you’re already a fan of refueling around and during your workouts, or you’re struggling to eat well, this should always be a priority if your goal is to continue enjoying your time on your feet in a healthy way.
Recovery is extremely important
Recovery between sessions, especially getting enough sleep, is key to getting fit and injury-free. Most runners need at least 8-9 hours of quality sleep most nights of the week. How do you prepare for this? Review your sleep routine to start. Is your bedroom temperature cool, do you put screens away at least an hour before bedtime, and is your bedroom completely dark and quiet? Making improvements in any of these areas can lead to positive results in sleep duration and quality.
It is also helpful to designate at least one recovery day, often more, each week. Your recovery days may include a very easy short run. Some recovery days may just involve stretching, light yoga, a walk around the neighborhood, or an easy hike. Easy days will differ from athlete to athlete, as well as at different times of the year, but they are key to avoiding injury. Beyond sleep and recovery days, trying to keep general life stress levels low, limiting alcohol intake, and maintaining a nutrient-dense diet will support a healthier, longer-lasting body that can withstand the rigors trail and ultrarunning.
Keep some variety in your workout
Every trail and ultrarunner has an individual preference when it comes to the variety of their workout. Some athletes thrive with high levels of routine and structure while others may become bored and less engaged when training regiments offer limited amounts of variety. Whichever variety you prefer, having too many reps in your workout is more likely to lead to injury than incorporating some variability. If you insist on running and running only, vary your pace, terrain, and elevation throughout the week. Altering what you ask of your body, from speed to hill running, generally leads to the ability to be efficient in a wider variety of trail conditions and changes biomechanical demands frequently enough to avoid overuse injury scenarios . Running in a variety of different shoes, or at least two different types or models of shoes, can also help avoid leg and foot problems.
Adding strength training to periodic periods throughout the year or using other sport modalities provide opportunities to develop and improve cardiovascular conditioning and muscular strength relative to exclusively running. Trail running and ultrarunning move the body primarily in a forward plane. Taking the time to strengthen your posterior kinetic chain and lateral movements using body weight and/or artificial weights will not only aid running performance on the track, but it can help balance lower body muscle development. a way that allows you to be more resistant to injury. . Cycling, swimming, Nordic skiing, and even sports like tennis or ultimate Frisbee force the body to move in a lateral plane more frequently than trail running requires. In turn, this can improve footwork and technique for technical trails while providing psychological benefits that can help athletes avoid mental exhaustion. Know your preference for variety, but understand that proactively integrating different forms of movement and modalities will likely contribute to a body and mind that will remain robust against the demands of trail running and ultrarunning.
Increasing your durability as a trail and ultrarunner can take many forms. While spending the majority of your training time running on trails is likely to improve your performance the most, don’t overlook the benefits of using activities that can support your running ambitions. If your goal is to stay in the sport for the long haul, you’ll probably be best served by taking the time to enjoy activities that will strengthen your body in ways that trail running and ultrarunning couldn’t. A few decades later, you’ll hopefully still be hitting the trails with a smile and a toned body.