Vertical training vs. flat

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  • #30337

    I recently started training for two races next year: a full marathon with about 3400 ft. of elevation gain, and a 50k with 8000-10000 ft. (which race it will be is TBD, since I’m not sure where I’ll be living next fall).

    I live in Chicago right now, so naturally I have to get a bit creative when it comes to training for this; usually I get my vertical in using a treadmill with the incline cranked up or on the stair stepper at the gym. The thing I can’t quite figure out is how much of my aerobic volume should be focused on training uphill vs. just running on relatively flat terrain.

    Also, does the actual size of the climbs during the race factor in to how much I want to do vertical training? Most climbs in the marathon are 300-600 feet, while in the 50k they’re as much as 2500 ft.

Posted In: Mountain Running

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    Anonymous on #30344


    Effective training for mountain races with lots of vert needs to include a lot of vert. The demands of running/hiking up hill on variable gradients are quite different than those of flat running. I’d recommend using the guidelines in our book Training for the Uphill Athlete to design an effective plan to be sure you are including enough vert. The one thing you will not get on the machines is the specific strength building that cones from down hill running. If you can get in on day a week on actual stairs where you hike/run up and run down your quads will thank you on race day.


    Anonymous on #30353

    Also, those seem like very different events. The marathon with less gain would require less vertical in your training, and vice versa for the 50K. When will you know which race you’re doing?

    DanM on #30436

    Thank you for the replies!

    I definitely plan on buying a copy of TFTUA in the near future. As for training, I can think of three good places where I can get both uphill and downhill. One is an old landfill with an elevation gain of 150 ft. with an average grade of 6.1% (a big downside is that this is only open in May through October, so I’d have to wait until next summer to take advantage of it). Another is a clearing off the side of the highway with a 50 foot gain and an average grade of roughly 20%. Finally, there’s also a staircase which has about 100 feet of gain and a grade of 30%.

    Will I want to take advantage of the slightly longer elevation gain and steeper grade of the staircase, or will I want to use the clearing near the highway since it activates more general muscles than the stairs?

    As for which race I plan to do, I plan on doing both. The Marathon will be in July and the 50k will likely be around August-October (which race it will be depend on where I go to grad school, I’m applying in a few months, most of the programs I’m looking at are around the western US, though, esp. WA and CO). I imagine I should mostly focus my uphill training around the 50k since it won’t hurt to be overtrained for the vertical in the Marathon?

    Anonymous on #30467

    A couple of cautions:

    I imagine I should mostly focus my uphill training around the 50k since it won’t hurt to be overtrained for the vertical in the Marathon?

    You do not want to go into this marathon overtrainined in any way. There will be no better way of wrecking your 50km race later in the summer. If your legs are even slightly over trained before it you will just be driving the last few nails into coffin for this season.

    As for how you rack up your vertical: With you very limited terrain options I suggest taking advantage of all of them for variety. The terrain on the races will vary….so should your training.

    We build into our Mike Foote Big Vertical training plan a special workout for people living in flat places. It is an ME program as discussed near the end of this article. YOu will see great gains in uphill and down hill running by incorporating it.


    manchesterru on #32622

    @Dan, A lot of the northern suburbs have great hills at the public beaches (roads going from lake level up the bluff) Defiently check out some of them for some decent hills in the Chicagoland area. Highland Park beach has a super solid hill.

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