Simon James of runthewild.co.uk on how to ‘economise’ on the trails
Trail running is all about how best to economise. I first came across this expression when guiding a run on the Tour du Mont Blanc last year and have been fascinated with it ever since. I'm not talking about watching my weekly grocery budget; I'm talking about the many facets that make up the trail running experience. This includes techniques as to what to carry on the trail and everything that becomes part of your #trailrunninglife and makes the best of your time and passion for this engaging sport. Here's how...
1 Train smart
The purpose of training is to improve. But, in setting goals, you also need to consider the time available for your training. When putting together a plan, how can you attain the biggest improvement in the most efficient way? This needs to include your time, money and other resources. The next thing to think about is how hard you train. Training hard feels uncomfortable, but in that 80% zone is where the good stuff happens. I often see runners who could be amazing but won't reach their potential because they don’t like the feeling of their blood pumping, heart thumping, sweat pouring, and utter exhaustion at the end of a session.
Also, by incorporating cross-training and strengthening exercises such as Pilates and yoga you can get the maximum benefit of rest and strengthening.
Lastly, sleep is a crucial consideration. Scientists recommend at least seven hours a day; but if you train more, you’ll need more.
2 Pack light and right
Becoming efficient in your packing is key to preparing for trails, as well as ensuring you don’t injure yourself. Don’t skimp on what you need, but at the same time do you really need to take two litres of water when it would be more economical to use a stream to resupply a small 250ml filter flask? Juggle your packing priorities and adjust to the route, conditions and your ability.
This is a huge subject, as it covers everything from efficiency of movement on a relatively flat trail to hurtling off down a steep technical path. My focus here is on economising on your movement. Often with better strength and fitness these tend to improve, but they also need conscious consideration. Was that the most efficient way to scramble up that route? Do you make the most of the grip on your trail shoes? Could you be moving more lightly over the ground, thereby being more stable and saving big impacts that risk a fall and possibly long-term damage to your joints?
Eating nutritiously, looking after your health, drinking to your thirst and planning your fuelling will improve your economy as a trail runner. These shouldn’t be last-minute considerations, but rather part of your lifestyle. You need to feed your body to maximise your training, while also giving your muscles the nutritional elements that are so important for building, strengthening and healing. You’ll also become less susceptible to illness.
5 Get fit
There’s no doubt that when your body is at its best condition, you’ll not only feel great but also be a much more efficient, economical runner - from speeding up your reaction times on fast technical trails to dropping a few extra pounds. These will all feed back into your overall performance. Increased core strength, better proprioception, functional strength and efficiency in the way your body and mind work within their component parts and also together will be the by-products of your efforts.
6 Go with the flow
Trail running is such a beautiful sport, in which for brief periods of time your body can be completely in tune with your mind, emotions and spirit. At that point, just go with it; it will feel intuitively right. Your movement on the trails, your preparation for the adventures ahead, what you eat, how you think - everything will support everything else and hopefully at that point you’ll realise all the benefits you have made from economising.