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> Mountain running – how to prepare? Guide for city runners

Mountain running – how to prepare? Guide for city runners

Publish date 13.01.2023

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Mountain running – how to prepare? Guide for city runners

You can run not only on tracks in cities or forests but also in the mountains. This is a bigger challenge. However, you don’t have to be a mountain runner to do your training there. Are you determined and eager to learn the ins and outs of this type of workout? If so, you’ve come to the right place. In this article, I’ll show you how you should prepare if you’ve never run in the mountains before. 

What should you prepare for? What to expect and how not to break down after the first hard run-up? Keep reading to learn more! 

Mountain running without special preparation – is it possible?

It is possible. However, you need to keep in mind that you must be an EXPERIENCED runner. Only by doing so will you be able to run in the mountains. However, even if you are an experienced runner, you must be humble, because such runs can be challenging for you. (Just don’t break down after this information. If you are determined then I believe you will be able to accomplish it). 

The most important thing is fitness – this is the key to success. As many runners, before you have already tested, it can be forged even in urban conditions. Not everyone lives in a place where there are uphill or small hillocks to exercise. 

When can you do mountain running?

  • have you been running for a long time and have experience (maybe you even took part in some competitions?) 
  • Are you in really good shape?
  • Have you been on hikes in the mountains and already know the realities of such climbs?
  • Do you strengthen your muscles with additional exercises?
  • Are you doing diverse training?
  • Are you adding interval running to your routine? 

If so, then you are well prepared to set off on mountain trails to conquer the peaks of mountains. First, choose a trail that is not very demanding. Face it and see what the result will be. 

When should you give yourself time and further practice and strengthen your muscles before setting out on mountain running? 

  • You are a beginner, you have no experience in running, 
  • You catch breathlessness quickly,
  • You are not in good shape and get tired after a few kilometers,
  • Besides running, you do not do any additional strengthening exercises. 

In this case, wait some more. Add appropriate exercises to your training plan. 

Mountain running – first a trip to the mountains 

There is no better preparation for training running in the mountains than… a trip to the mountains. It is best to choose the places where you plan to run. That way you’ll be able to see for yourself what the road is like, whether it’s tough, and whether you’re catching breathlessness just from going uphill (this is also important and shows whether you’re ready).

Go there as a normal tourist. Take a leisurely walk on the trail, and save the running for another time. 

Going to the mountains alone may not be the best idea. Therefore, go there with your friends. You can also take a guide, who will not only show you around the route but also maybe hint something about mountain running. Who knows, maybe he runs or has run – you never know who you will run into 😉

The most important thing, however, is that you get to know the running routes. If you want to compete, you’ll be more prepared and less stressed if you know what a mountain trail looks like, where to slow down, where to accelerate, and where to be most careful. This will not only help you achieve a better result but also make you feel more confident. 

Running in the mountain

Mountain running – what types of training are important? 

You’ve already been on a hike in the mountains, you’ve learned the route and you already know what it looks like. Great!

But that’s not all, to prepare well and have a chance to complete the training you need to take care of your body. After all, good preparation is the basis. In the mountains, strong legs are not enough. You also need to be in good shape and have a strong psyche, because, after a few kilometers, you may already be fed up if you’ve never done it before. 

If you run only in flat urban areas, then you need to diversify your training with:

  • long runs uphill – this is hard to do in the city, so you can try training on stairs or running on a treadmill, which will be elevated at about 5-8%. Then you’ll be able to practice running uphill in a relaxed way and prepare for a run.
  • safe running down.
  • training in the field, on the varied ground.

Also important are complementary exercises – strengthening training. In this case, it’s a good idea to strengthen your joints, and your legs, which should be prepared for a heavy load – try exercises with dumbbells or barbells. 

Temps and intervals? You can add them to your training as well, but they are not as important. Of course, they can prepare you better and if you have the time then add them to your training plan. However, focus your attention most on running down and up hills – after all, these are what you will encounter most often (almost at every step) during mountain running. 

A few more words about training for mountain running 

How often to train?

If you want to get better then run every day and vary your training with the exercises I mentioned earlier. However, remember to take one day off to recover. Rest a little and avoid getting injured. Skip the workout if you feel a lot of pain in your legs or have soreness. 

Where to run?

Run normally in the city in the park. Maybe there will be trampled paths – so you can run on a different surface. Run up and down stairs, and practice running on a treadmill with an incline. What’s more, at least once a week go outside the city – choose tracks or forest paths for your training. This will better prepare you for the ground that is the mountains. 

Flat terrain vs. running uphill 

Yes, I know I’ve mentioned this before, but it’s worth a reminder. In the city, it is often difficult to get to some higher terrain. That’s why you should run up and down stairs or go on a treadmill. It’s a really good workout. Don’t think to yourself that somehow you’ll make it. If you don’t practice running uphill, you don’t have anything to dream about getting to the top and reaching the finish line.

Running downhill – where to practice?

It must be admitted that you can’t simulate real running on a treadmill or stairs. That’s why you need to find hills in your city or neighborhood where you can practice. If you can’t think of anything, ask the Internet runners in the area if they know where in the city you can find such a place. They will surely help you 😉

Is it worth it to do these hard exercises and do mountain running?  

Yes, yes, yes! 

Running in the mountains provides a tremendous amount of excitement that you certainly won’t experience in flat areas, in the city. There, every run is different even though the route is the same. Also, you commune closely with nature. Moreover, you will force your body to exert more effort. In the end, you will feel great satisfaction, joy, and pride! 

Positive effects of preparing for mountain running 

  • You will engage many muscle parts during training, 
  • You will improve your fitness, 
  • Strengthen your leg muscles, 
  • Improve balance – your running steps will be more stable even on uneven pavement 
  • You build running strength, 
  • Going out of town means closer contact with nature – better well-being, and de-stress.
Mountain running - preparation

Is mountain running a run?

Some may have divided opinions here. Yes, during mountain running you run, but much more often such a workout involves hiking. On a large part of the route, you have to use powerful hiking to go through the trail. 

You need to be aware of this, that you will not be able to run on every section. That’s why I mentioned strengthening exercises earlier. 

The first mountain running – which one to choose? 

This is probably the hardest conundrum for people who are just starting to run in the mountains. However, it is not a difficult matter. At the very beginning, choose the shortest routes, which are 5-10 km long. This way you will test yourself and see if you can cover the entire length. 

After finishing your run, do you feel that you could run even more? Great. Next time sign up for a longer running distance. 

REMEMBER: Before signing up for a mountain run, read the information about your chosen event. See the distance, difficulty level, and route of the run. These are very important aspects, especially if you are a beginner. 

Mountain running – consultation with a physiotherapist 

You’ve surely noticed by now that mountain running is very demanding. Therefore, during your preparation, and even more so during competitions on mountain trails, you are at greater risk of injury. Your legs will be more overloaded, the ground will be varied – stones, branches, holes, mud. 

Therefore, you should consult your health not only with your doctor but also with a physiotherapist. If you feel pain during your workout, and it’s more than soreness or simple overtraining, go to them and consult. This could be the beginning of some kind of injury that will develop through training and prevent you from competing. 

Training is important – it’s true, but the most important thing is your health, well-being and comfort not only physically but also mentally. 

What shoes for running in the mountains? 

If you want to run in the mountains then you should know right away that you need new shoes. 

“But I’m a runner. I have running shoes.”

Such will not be good. Normal running shoes are a completely different category, plus they have completely different properties. 

“So what properties do shoes for running in the mountains need to have?”

I will tell you. They must have:

  • deeper tread – they allow you to run safely on different types of terrain, 
  • less cushioning – you can feel the ground well. Don’t worry about joint strain. Soft paths are not hard concrete or asphalt. 
  • non-slip soles

This is what you need in your mountain running shoes. Also, remember to make them comfortable. Don’t take a new pair to a competition. Run in them beforehand on trails outside the city. 

What else besides shoes? 

Shoes are not everything. You still need comfortable shorts and a T-shirt. Ideally, they should be well-fitted to the body, but they shouldn’t restrict movement. What’s more, they should be made of stretchy material and wicks sweat away. 

For the competition, also prepare a small backpack in which you can put a water bottle and some treats such as energy bars or energy gels. You will lose a lot of energy on such a tough course. The treats will allow you to rebuild it and run further. 

Running in the mountains – fun fact

Do you know when the first mountain running took place? It was around 1064. Mountain running was organized by King Malcolm III of Scotland. However, back then it wasn’t about prizes and medals. It was to see who was the most suitable as a king’s messenger = he had to run fast. 

One thing is certain – mountain running is a demanding and tough challenge. Even experienced runners, after one such race, give up on the next few years. I have read several blogs of professional athletes who thought it was easy. However, when they ran once, they saw how much strength, what kind of conditioning, and dedication it requires. 

Maybe you’ll be like them, run once, and decide it’s not for you. Or maybe you will discover your new passion after all? Maybe this is the perfect kind of running for you. Get ready, run in the mountains with friends, and sign up for competitions! Don’t give up and pursue your goal. 

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