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HOW TO NAIL THE TRAIL

Landie and Christiaan Greyling are podium-topping athletes as well as running coaches. Here are their tips for being at the top of the trail ladder.



1. PLANNING

Aim for a main goal and map out a few minor races that work towards your main target. This will keep you motivated and provide a way to measure whether you’re on track with your build-up.


Use the SMART principle: be Specific with your planning; Measure your progress; ensure your goal is Attainable and Realistic; and be Timebound by giving yourself sufficient time

to get strong to achieve your goal. For example, a realistic goal would be to run an ultra-trail 16 weeks after you have done a few marathons on trail.


Plan your build-up on a calendar, working backwards from race date, and adding in training in incremental building blocks that incorporate recovery weeks. Keep your mileage within a safe 10% increase per week, and allow for a pre-race taper.


Be patient! There is no fast route to fitness – the quicker you do it, the higher your risk of injury. And remember, a trail marathon cannot be compared to a road marathon. The Otter takes twice as long as a road marathon! And a 100 miler takes days of running, eating and proper planning. However, everything is possible with the right plan and coach to support you.


2. TRAINING

Strategic sessions in a week should include:

• a rest day,

• one or two speed sessions like 7 x 2min fatleks or 15-20 x 200m,

• one hill session – anything from 30 seconds to 500m repeats,

• one or two long runs, ideally on consecutive days to teach the legs to handle fatigue,

• one to four running-specific leg- and core-strengthening sessions,

• two to four mobility sessions, including stretching and foam-rolling.


Cross-training is very beneficial and can include spinning, watt-bike sessions, swimming and aqua-jogging.


Go easy on your pace during your non-quality runs. Around 70%-80% of your weekly mileage should be run at an easy pace.


Activate your muscles pre-run with five minutes of dynamic stretching. For example, dynamic squats, runner’s lunge, hip openers, and high-knee toe-ups.


Stretch well post-run, using dynamic calf-stretches, hip flexor stretches, hamstring stretches and glute stretches.


3. RECOVERY

Don’t stint on recovery – taking time out helps you to avoid injury and stay healthy.


Sleep 7-9 hours a night to help your cells regenerate and your muscles recover.


Sports massages every few weeks help reduce muscle fatigue and relieve muscle swelling and tension.


Stretch and foam-roll daily to help mobility, flexibility and muscle conditioning.


4. TECHNIQUE

Downhills ROCKS!

• Read the trail, concentrating 2-3m ahead.

• Use Obstacles on the path, such as sturdy rocks or patches of grass, to your advantage.

• Commit and be confident! Fear is not your friend on a downhill, and hesitating will throw you off-balance.

• Keep your arms low to drop your centre of gravity and help stability.

• Small, quick steps, and a slight forward lean will help you ‘flow’ as you descend, and result in less impact on your joints.


Uphills – the heart-eat-beat-bums technique

• Don’t attack the climb, but rather go steady to keep your heart rate from peaking.

• Eat before the hill, not on the climb.

• Powerhiking steep hills and steps will expend less energy and enable you to recover faster from the climb. If the hill is runnable, shorten your stride length and keep your heart rate steady within the aerobic zone.

• Engage your glutes by leaning forward from your hips, to give maximum push-forward power.


5. GEAR

Check the mandatory kit list on the race website several days before you leave for the race, to give yourself enough time to shop for what you need. Never presume you’ll be able to get lastminute essentials in the race town!


The basic trail kit essentials are:

• trail shoes

• hydration pack

• GPS watch (fully-charged)

• first-aid kit, including safety blanket

• waterproof jacket (seam-sealed and with a hood)


6. NUTRITION

BEFORE THE RACE

Eat a simple, light supper that’s easy to digest, and is low in fat and fibre. Don’t skip breakfast, it fills your glycogen stores for your race.


If you’ve travelled to the race, find out beforehand what’s available at the race village, and be flexible. Know what agrees with you.


Some safe bets for breakfast include Superfood oats, Buttanut toast, boiled eggs, scrambled eggs. Aim for 400kcal of energy.


DURING THE RACE:

What you consume during a race can make or break your event, so experiment during your training to learn what works best for you, particularly in the conditions you can expect on race day.

• Don’t take in too many concentrated carbs, particularly on an empty stomach.

• Start eating early in the race, and have small amounts, frequently.

• Drink to thirst.


For example, my strategy for a race like the Maxi 75km would be:

• Biogen Cytogen (40g carbs, 100kcal, 500ml/hour + 500ml water or electrolytes),

• protein in the first 4 hours of the race like Buttanut nut butter,

• 40g carbs via energy bars or fruit/real food,

• total of 80g carbs per hour, 1g for every 1kg of bodyweight per hour.


AFTER THE RACE

• Eat within 30 minutes of finishing your race.

• The ideal combination of carbohydrate to protein for muscle recovery is 0.8g carbs with 0.2-0.4g protein per kg body mass.


As an example, Landie’s favourite recovery fast-foods are:

• Superfoods smoothie,

• Biogen’s Grape Cytogen,

• chickpea pancakes with nut butter and blueberries,

• quinoa salad with a protein (pistachio nuts, black beans, biltong, chicken).



ABOUT THE AUTHORS

Landie and Christiaan Greyling are Stellenbosch locals and MaxiRace partners. In 2017

they opted out of their respective professions (accounting and industrial engineering) and

took an indefinite sabbatical to run.


They spent five months on the European trail circuit, together securing podium places in seven of the eight races in which they competed, and returned home to Stellenbosch in

time for Christiaan to blitz the Otter African Trail Run in 4:13:16. Shortly after this they became parents to two lovely children. They now juggle full-time jobs at the Alpasfit

Coaching Academy with competing at the top level.

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