We're often told that road runners should mix-up their training with trail runs, but should trail runners try roads? According to Robbie Simpson (Salomon's Scotland-based mountain runner) the answer is a definite, "Yes".
Here, Robbie discusses the main benefits; offering some training ideas and suggesting the right kit.
The main benefits
Improved running economy
The main benefit of road running, is that it can improve your energy (or oxygen) efficiency – a key factor in your "running economy".
Endurance runners tend to be more economical; possibly due to the fact that they're doing more repetitions, so they are better adapted to the motion.
Improved VO2 max
Intervals are a great way to condition your body to deliver energy (oxygen) to your muscles at a faster rate – this rate is your "VO2 max". It is easier to do these sessions on roads, as there are less obstacles than on trails - so you can focus on speed.
Here are two simple training ideas to get you started:
Threshold runs are where you run at a faster pace, for a certain length of time or distance. They get you used to running faster.
Try this, once a week:
- Calculate 10% of your weekly mileage. This is your overall route distance
- Schedule intervals of between 1km and 4km
- Complete each section at roughly the speed at which you might race a half Marathon
- Recover between intervals with 3 or 4 minutes of easy running
Stride-outs are periods of fast-paced, short strides – with good form. They help your legs to adapt to the demands of harder road workouts.
Try the following at the end of your easy runs:
- 6 x 80m stride-outs on a flat or slightly rising road
- Recovery between stride-out sections with 2 minutes walking
Road running as an off-season strategy
I recommend that you plan your training across a full year; backing off at certain times, and peaking at others.
You might want to use road running during your off-season, so that you can work on the finer points of your training - pace, economy, etc.
Swap two of your weekly runs for the following:
- 2 x hard road runs per week
- Aim to cover from 10km to half marathon distances:
- 1 x per week interval session or threshold run
- 1 x per week progressive run, aim for a negative split
Getting the right kit
Please don't just use your trail kit! You need different support for the different environment.
- Footwear: Get some lightweight but cushioned shoes. I rate the Salomon S-Lab Sonic Shoes (SS16). Salomon developed them with Max King (US Olympic Marathon Trials qualifier, World Trail and Mountain Running Champion) and they are perfect for fast, smooth road running!
- Clothing: If you only buy one thing, make it the Salomon S-Lab Exo Twinskin Short (SS16). The different pockets are really useful for carrying gels and soft flasks on longer runs, and there's even room for a lightweight jacket e.g. the S-Lab Light Jacket.
- GPS watch: I'd recommend a good quality GPS watch with a heart-rate monitor, like the Suunto Ambit 3 Peak Black HR. This helps you keep an eye on your pace for the workouts - otherwise it can be hard to judge speed and effort when you're not used to the flat road.
I started racing in 2004, aged 12. I've gained third in the 2015 World Mountain Running Championships, third in 2015 Sierre-Zinal Mountain Race, second in the 2014 European Mountain Running Championships, and winner of the 2014 and 2015 Tour de Tirol Trail Race Series.