Training for Adventure Racing

article029Whether you’re a top level racer with a high level of base fitness or a ‘social’ racer who is in it for the adventure and your aim is just to finish not to win, your training program should build your endurance, strength, speed and power in a number of disciplines.

Being fit for an adventure race is not about being able to run a sub-3hr marathon… it’s about being able to move efficiently and rapidly over rugged terrain – and to just keep going. To be successful you need good endurance, strength, skills and the right attitude.

The four primary components of training are:

  1. Mental preparation is about believing in your ability to accomplish more than what you think you can do and having the right attitude to make it happen while staying focused on your goal. Your confidence will grow as you improve your skills and overcome challenges.
  2. Building your endurance should make up the bulk of your training. This is about building your cardiovascular and respiratory systems such that the body is able to efficiently deliver oxygen to the working muscles for hours of activity. It’s also about conditioning your muscles and feet to days of constant use.
  3. Developing strength and power is important for both short and long events. Your preparation should incorporate weight training to increase the strength of specific muscles i.e. step-ups and lunges will improve your uphill trekking abilities. You can also increase your endurance and aerobic capacities by developing your power through high intensity (interval) training.
  4. Lastly, spend time on improving your skills. The better your skills (mountain biking, trekking, paddling, ropes, navigation etc) the more comforable and confident you will feel and thus your experience of adventure racing will be a positive one.

For adventure racing there is no “one-size-fits-all” training program as each person adapts differently and at varied rates. Also, the amount of training you should do depends on your goals – do you want to win, obtain a good placing or just finish the race? Needless to say, the fitter you are, the faster you will be able to go and the better you will feel.

No matter what your objective, varying the F.I.T.T. factors will improve the results that you obtain from your training:

  • Frequency – the number of training sessions you do each week. The longer the race you’ve selected, the more sessions you will need to log. Don’t forget about incorporating at least one rest day per week. Use this time to improve your skills i.e. rope work & navigation.
  • Intensity – how hard you are working out. Whether you have a heart rate monitor or not, you can gauge the intensity of your workout by how you are feeling. On Rating of Perceived Exertion (RPE) scale, one equals rest, 5 equals a moderately difficult intensity and 10 corresponds to an extremely difficult rate of work. Develop an awareness of your body and learn when you can push hard or take it easy and how this affects your performance.
  • Time – the duration spent in each workout. This factor depends on both your goals and your lifestyle. Always remember that quality is better than quantity. Learn to use your limited time effectively.
  • Type – the kind activity. The buzz word here is cross-training. I advocate a varied diet not only to keep your training from becoming routine and boring, but to work all your muscles and improve your flexibility and range of movement. Run on trails, attend spinning classes, spend time on the super circuit, eliptical trainer, treadmill and rowing machine. Take up kayaking, sign up for yoga classes, swim, aqua jog, try kata box and step aerobics and take on the step machine.

General Training Tips

  • Start slowly and concentrate on increasing the duration of your training session, maintaining a comfortable pace. Build a solid endurance base and then work on your speed.
  • Train doing what you will be doing in the race. It does not help being able to run for hours on the road when you will be hiking up and down mountains over uneven terrain during the race.
  • Train in unpleasant weather conditions. When you encounter heat, cold, wind and rain in a race you will know that you can handle it because you have managed in training.
  • When starting a new discipline get expert help so that you don’t pickup and train with bad habits. A pro will also teach you how to be effective and efficient in your movements.
  • Train with your backpack – your running style is altered and different muscles are used when you are carrying something on your back. But, don’t go from zero to hero. Increase the weight in your pack gradually.
  • Strength gained from weight training is lost quickly so maintain your weight training throughout the year

Author: Lisa de Speville | Photo by Craig Dutton, Bull of Africa 2005