Four sure-fire ways to become a faster trail runner
One of the great things about trail running is that in its simplicity of putting one foot in front of the other ...
Illustration by Kevin Howdeshell
One of the great things about trail running is that in its simplicity of putting one foot in front of the other, it can also be a scientific endeavor to maximize speed and endurance. Here are four physiological lessons that can make you a faster trail runner.
LESSON 1: Lactate threshold and running economy are more important than VO2max.
While VO2max (the maximum volume of oxygen your muscles can consume per minute) has received most of the attention among runners and coaches, a high VO2max alone is not enough to be a good runner. And although you can improve your VO2max, it is largely genetically determined.
Lactate threshold (LT) and running economy (RE) are more responsive to training and exert a greater influence on your performance. I have tested many athletes in the laboratory with elite-level VO2max values, but few of them were capable of running at the elite or even sub-elite level, because they did not have a high LT or well-developed RE.
LT is an important physiological variable that demarcates the transition between almost purely aerobic running and running that includes significant oxygen-independent (anaerobic) metabolism. It represents the fastest speed you can sustain aerobically. Specific LT runs increase your LT to a faster pace, delaying fatigue.