How to regain your trail-running fitness
At some point in their careers, most runners face periods when they're forced to stop training due to illness, injury, ...
Photo by David Clifford
At some point in their careers, most runners face periods when they're forced to stop training due to illness, injury, travel or overriding life priorities. By the time they return to running, their fitness has been significantly reduced. This is called detraining: the partial or complete loss of training-induced physiological adaptations in response to a cessation of a substantial decrease in training load. The subsequent process of regaining one's former fitness level is called retraining.
To understand the process of detraining and retraining, let's study the experiences of two trail runners, Joe and Sharon. Joe is a 45-year-old competitive runner with a marathon time of 2:50 and 10K time of 37 minutes. He's trained consistently for 10 years with few interruptions, until now. Sick with pneumonia and completely bed ridden for three months, he's finally recovered and ready to resume training.
Sharon, 30, has been trail running for five years, logging 25 to 50 miles a week, and has finished middle-of-the-pack at several 50K and 50-mile ultramarathons. She just returned from six months of traveling in Asia, during which she did not run but hiked daily.
Both fretted about how much hard-earned fitness they had lost and how they faced a long, hard slog to regain it. A few days' rest or inactivity would not have impaired Joe or Sharon's performance, but research has shown that after two to three weeks of inactivity, fitness begins to decrease dramatically.