Getting ready for the trail race of your life? Then this article will help you take your training up a notch.

Here, we’ll discuss how to train for your next trail running event, with a special focus on beginner and intermediate athletes. You’ll get a sample workout plan tailored to you, as well as tips on how to warm up and stretch.

Plus, we’ll answer any questions you have about trail running training. So, grab your gear and let’s get started!

Trail running workout

A trail running workout should include a combination of running, strength training, and cross-training exercises. Here are some important factors to consider when creating a trail running workout:

  1. Build Endurance: Trail running requires a high level of cardiovascular endurance, so it’s important to gradually increase the distance and duration of your runs over time.
  2. Incorporate Hills and Uneven Terrain: Trail races often include steep inclines and uneven surfaces, so it’s important to train on these types of terrain to build strength and improve your balance and coordination.
  3. Incorporate Strength Training: Trail running requires a lot of leg and core strength, so it’s important to include exercises that target those muscle groups, such as lunges, step-ups, and squats.
  4. Incorporate Cross-training: Cross-training activities such as cycling, swimming, or resistance training can help improve your overall fitness and endurance, and prevent injury.
  5. Incorporate Interval Training: Incorporating interval training, such as hill repeats or fartlek runs, can help improve your endurance by challenging your body to work harder for short periods of time.
  6. Gradual increase of the intensity and duration of your training: To avoid injury and burnout, it’s important to build up your endurance gradually over time.

Trail running workout for beginners

Here’s a sample workout designed for beginners:

  • Warm-up: 5-10 minutes of easy jogging or walking
  • Lunges: Lunges are great for strengthening your lower body and giving you more stability while running on the trail. (3 sets of 12 reps per leg)
  • Step-ups: Step-ups are a great exercise that can help strengthen your quads while allowing you to simulate the climbing of hills and mountains while trail running. (3 sets of 12 reps per leg)
  • Squat Jumps:  Squat jumps are a great way to build power and explosive strength, both of which are essential when running on trails. (3 sets of 12 reps)
  • Plyometric Push-Ups: Plyometric push-ups is an aerobic exercise that can help with muscular endurance, which is important when running long distances on trails. (3 sets of 12 reps)
  • Jump Rope: Jumping rope is a great way to get your heart rate up and get your body used to the quick bursts of energy that come with trail running. (3 sets of 1 minute)
  • Calf Raises: Calf raises are great for strengthening your calf muscles which can help you in both running and climbing hills and mountains. (3 sets of 12 reps)
  • Burpees: Burpees work your entire body and help build your core strength, which is important for trail running. (3 sets of 12 reps)
  • Mountain climbers: Mountain climbers are a great exercise that can help you build foot strength, balance and agility. All these are essential to running on trails. (3 sets of 12 reps per leg)
  • Cool-down: 5-10 minutes of easy jogging or walking

Trail running workout for intermediate and advanced athletes

  • Warm-up: 5-10 minutes of easy jogging or walking
  • Lunges (4 sets of 12 reps per leg)
  • Step-ups (4 sets of 12 reps per leg)
  • Squat Jumps (4 sets of 12 reps)
  • Plyometric Push-Ups (4 sets of 12 reps)
  • Jump Rope (4 sets of 1 minute)
  • Calf Raises (4 sets of 12 reps)
  • Burpees (4 sets of 12 reps)
  • Mountain climbers (4 sets of 12 reps per leg)
  • Cool-down: 5-10 minutes of easy jogging or walking

Warm-up and stretching

In the previous examples, we included simple warm-up routines. But if you are concerned about injuries, here’s our recommendation for a more in-depth warm-up routine:


  1. Start with a 5-10 minute easy jog or walk to get your blood flowing and heart rate up. Use a treadmill for this, preferably a shock absorbing treadmill
  2. Next, perform dynamic stretching exercises, such as leg swings, lunges, and high knees. These will help to loosen up your muscles and prepare them for the workout ahead.
  3. Then, do a few short sprints or hill repeats to get your legs and lungs working harder.
  4. Finally, finish with a few minutes of light jogging or walking to bring your heart rate back down.

Here’s a sample dynamic warm-up routine that might help:

  • Leg Swings (Forward and backward)
  • Lunges (Forward, Lateral and Backward)
  • High knees
  • Butt Kicks
  • Carioca
  • Skipping
  • A-skip
  • B-skip
  • C-skip

It is also important to focus on proper form and technique during your warm-up, as this will help to prevent injury and improve your overall performance.

Remember, the main goal of a warm-up is to increase your body temperature and get your muscles ready for the workout ahead. So, make sure to spend enough time warming up and adjust the intensity and duration of the warm-up according to your fitness level and the weather conditions.

Stretching and cooling down after a trail running workout

Trail running is highly prone to injuries due to the repeated impact on the knees and back. Cramping is also highly likely. With that in mind, it’s crucial to stretch appropriately.

Here’s our recommended stretching routine after a trail run or a trail run workout:

  1. Hamstring stretch: Sit on the ground with one leg extended in front of you and the other leg bent. Reach forward and hold onto your ankle or toes for 20-30 seconds before switching sides.
  2. Quad stretch: Stand with one foot behind you and hold onto your ankle or foot. Keep your knees close together and hold for 20-30 seconds, then switch sides.
  3. Calf stretch: Standing facing a wall, step forward with one foot and press the heel of your back foot into the ground. Keep both legs straight and hold for 20-30 seconds, then switch sides.
  4. IT band stretch: Sit on the ground with one leg crossed over the other. Place your hand on the outside of your thigh and gently press it towards the ground. Hold for 20-30 seconds, then switch sides.
  5. Upper body stretch: Clasp your hands behind your back and lift your arms up towards the sky. 
  6. Shoulder stretch: Bring one arm across your chest and hold it with the opposite hand. Hold each side for 20-30 seconds.

Be sure to focus on your breathing and to do this routine after each training session, paying special attention to the hip flexor muscles, knees and gluteus.

Common question

How many days a week should I train in the gym for a trail run? What should my preparation for a trail race be like?

  1. Gym training: Depending on your current fitness level and goals, we would recommend 2-3 days of strength training per week. These sessions should focus on exercises that target the major muscle groups used in trail running, such as the legs, core, and upper body. Additionally, exercises like plyometrics and balance training may be also beneficial.
  2. Trail running: To prepare for a trail race, it’s essential to get used to running on the trails. We recommend doing at least 2-3 trail runs per week, gradually increasing the distance and intensity over time. It’s also important to incorporate different types of terrain, such as hills and uneven surfaces, into your trail runs to help build strength and improve your balance and coordination.
  3. Cross-training: Cross-training activities such as swimming, cycling, or yoga can be beneficial for building overall fitness, improving endurance, and preventing injury. We recommend incorporating 1-2 days of cross-training per week.

It’s also important to keep in mind that recovery is crucial for making progress and avoiding injury, so make sure to include rest days in your training schedule and listen to your body.

As you get closer to the race, you should start to taper your training to allow your body to recover and be fresh for the race day. This means gradually reducing the volume and intensity of your training in the final weeks leading up to the race.

Remember, it’s important to individualize your training program to your current fitness level, experience, and goals. Consult with a sports medicine professional or a running coach if you’re unsure about your training schedule.

Final thoughts

To finish, training for mountain running involves more than physical fitness – technique and gear are essential too. No matter your level, having an appropriate plan in place will ensure you’re ready for your next race.

This article introduces a training program to suit beginners and intermediate athletes, as well as guidelines on warm-ups and stretches.

Further, endurance building, uphill trekking, strength training, cross-training, interval training, and adjusting workout duration/level as needed, are all necessary to curate a highly personalized plan.

With the right preparation and commitment, you will excel in trail running!


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