Why increase your speed?
Successfully increasing your speed is very important when you want to be successful in trail running. From a numbers perspective, here is a simple example from one of the Raidlight Team runners: I can run 3 hours at 70% VO2Max. If my Maximum Aerobic Speed is 15 Km/h, I will run at 10.5 Km/h. If my Maximum Aerobic Speed is 17 Km/h, I will run at 12 Km/h. You can understand that the speed gain is essential, because these few Km/h of difference will make a large difference in your finish time.
Nathalie says: “Having good speed, especially on the flat, allows you to recover better and creates the difference.”
However, be sure to consider the correct concept of speed. Having a good top speed can be useful in many sports, but what will be most beneficial as a trail runner is to have a good average speed. By having a high average speed, that you can maintain for longer periods time, you will perform better overall.
Nathalie says: “Being able to run at a good average speed for a long time is not only faster over a long course, but it also makes it easier to manage occasional accelerations.”
Whether uphill, downhill or simply to manage speed, cadence is an intrinsic factor. Everyone will exploit their own strengths in terms of their own body. Naturally, to be able to establish if speed is related to cadence, it is necessary to study two runners of the same build and the same pace. In this situation, it is shown that cadence and stride length increase with speed. Once again, do not neglect the oxygenation of your muscles, which requires a good breathing and therefore a more upright position and keep the chest open.
The development and practice of certain actions also allows you to gain speed. First, try as much as possible to limit unnecessary movements: it is wasted energy and prevents you from fully exploiting your potential. Also remember to keep your head up and look ahead to allow you to anticipate the terrain while also maximizing your breathing. Finally, the quality of stride and gait should not be neglected: try to avoid striking too much on the heel but instead allow the foot to land on the midfoot for a more fluid, energy efficient stride.
Nathalie says: The use of trail running poles will improve your average speed. Two sports that help in training are: Swimming; for strengthening arm muscles. Nordic walking; for learning efficient techniques of using poles.
The power/weight ratio is an essential element in performance. At high levels, all runners are very light (but not too light!): The pounds/kilos must be dragged…. For trail running, the best power/weight ratio to achieve corresponds to the ideal weight for a certain shape, this weight is the optimum amount of muscle needed to move. Too much muscle, too much weight. Too little muscle, not enough power.
Nathalie says: In searching for your ideal weight, you are naturally tempted to want to be lighter. Be careful though, because you have to make sure you have enough energy in your body to run the full length of the trail.
You will often read or hear about the impact of VO2Max when you search for information. A good VO2Max is required to perform well in trail running, but it is not sufficient on its own. It is a good indicator (especially for new runners), but not a universal indicator. A good runner will have a good VO2Max, but, someone who has a good VO2Max is not necessarily a good trail runner.
Nathalie says: Make your local environment a strength.
Living in a rather flat area, Nathalie was able to transform what appeared to be a weakness to her strength: high performance on sections of flat or false flat. She recalls: "At the 2015 World Championships, I surprised my main opponent by attacking where she did not expect: the flat. By pushing hard in a flat section of the course, I was able to overtake and then I did not let anything go to the finish line”. By making good use of her strengths, our RaidLight Dream Team athlete achieved her second gold medal in the World Trail Championships (2013 and 2015).
Regardless of your local environment, interval sessions (short or long) are good for developing your average running speed.
Nathalie says: You have to keep training on track and on tarmac. This allows you to think only about going as fast as possible, without having to worry about the terrain.
NATHALIE’S ADVICE TO IMPROVE SPEED
"Sometimes, training is very difficult. In these moments, I know that I suffer now to perform on “D-Day”, it is not for immediate pleasure”.