How to prepare for a race at height: recommendations from Dmitry Mityaev

Most amateur runners, after running for a few years on asphalt, frankly begin to get bored and look for new adventures. Someone turns to triathlon, someone goes ultra. And there are those whose craving for the mountains and love of running lead to mountain starts.

Dmitry Mityaev, Russia’s most titled trailrunner and skyrunner, tells how to properly prepare for running in the mountains, how to train if there are no mountains nearby, and what exercises are needed for this.

Dmitry Mityaev: how to prepare for a high race
Dmitry Mitiaev

How to start training in the mountains

If you are one of those amateur runners who dream of going from boring asphalt to the romance of mountain roads, you need to understand your goals well. Running in the mountains is by no means an easy task.

The most important thing is to set the right goals, and the motivation will depend on it, and the achievement of the goals will affect more the desires to run in the mountains. It is best to start with easy descents in the low mountains and without particularly difficult and technical passages.

When the goal is set, you need to find an opportunity to train at least three times a week, and ideally for an amateur – five times a week. In general, the preparation for a road race and a mountain race will not be very different: we both have to prepare different body systems for the expected load.

No matter what you are preparing for, you must first eliminate muscle imbalances and then proceed with targeted training.

In preparation for the trail, you will have to pay more attention to weight training, and for this there is a wide arsenal of different types of load: bike, rowing machine, ellipse, skis. But, of course, the closer the training conditions (relief, weather) are to those of the competition, the more effective the training itself will be.

Equipment for mountain races

It is very important to choose the right equipment. Pay attention to the choice of shoes, backpack and sticks, the rest is not so important. If there is a lot of mud during the race, choose shoes with a narrow fit and thin soles so that the mud can easily come off when moving.

For races where there are a lot of stones, it is important to choose shoes with soft rubber. For races with a lot of hard roads, it is better to choose thicker and softer shoes, for technical trails, on the contrary, it is better to take a more elastic sole, otherwise the foot will get tired of softness.

Poles are best for immediately taking carbon, and from several sections, the pole lanyard is more convenient in the form of a glove.

More on the subject: How to choose telescopic poles for running

What to do if there are no mountains for training nearby

The most beautiful races take place in the mountains, but unfortunately not everyone has a mountain nearby. You have to understand that during a mountain race, unlike a flat race, you use a lot more muscles. And we have to train them.

If there are no mountains nearby, you can use the following scheme:

  • Do 20% of your workouts on a bike or bicycle;
  • 20% on a treadmill at maximum incline;
  • 10% ellipsis;
  • 10-20% strength training, including gym, stick exercises;
  • 30-40% running on a flat surface: in winter – snow, in summer – ground.

To work on running technique, you can build artificial paths with stones or find a short hill and run runs.

Check out the Trail Running School channel for videos on alternative training methods.

How to assess the complexity of the route ahead

If the race is of a good standard, it will struggle on the ITRA scale. Look at the results of previous years winners and their level, and if a person has been running it for a long time, it means that there is definitely a difficult path.

How to prepare for a high race
photo: Giacomo Meneghello, source:

In order to correctly assess the level of the race, it is important to watch videos from previous years, read reviews, you can use Google Maps and consider the terrain on the race track.

Will stair running replace mountain training?

The mechanics of stair running are similar to trail running, but it’s best to use this method no more than once a week, as knee problems often occur due to the angle of the foot on walking. If possible, it is better to choose a treadmill.

How to combine flat ground and field training

Everything is very individual, for the most part it will be difficult to do all the training at once in the mountains – it’s hard muscle work. It is recommended to leave a minimum of 10% of the workout on the flat, but for many beginners this percentage can be higher.

Muscle building to prepare for mountain races

Strength training is a modern training trend among amateur and professional runners. The level of strength endurance is extremely important for a trail runner, and it needs to be paid attention to.

Strength training has a positive effect on hormonal background, injury prevention and tone long before interval training.

The main thing is to do it correctly and the exercises should be as specific as possible to the very type of load in competition.

What other training do skyrunners need?

To run in the mountains, it is very important to be flexible. And if you are not careful with stretching, it will be impossible to achieve this plasticity. If you don’t stretch to strengthen your muscles, sooner or later you will injure yourself. It is important to do a 60-second static stretch on the major muscles at least three times a week.

Everything should be moderate: the more diverse the preparation, the better the nervous system will react to the stress received from the loads, and the sports form will develop.

Mountain running training

First of all, the muscles must be ready, especially the quadriceps and gluteal muscles. If the muscles are ready, you need to learn to relax and not look under your feet.

It is important to have a good stretch and good dynamics in the hip joint. Unless you learn to run in a relaxed way, just lifting your feet and softening each step, you won’t be able to run economically and quickly down the mountain. Learn to relax from your fingers to your toes with every movement.

Read more: How to prepare for a mountain trail

Acclimatization for mountain races

The most important thing is not to confuse climber acclimatization with competition acclimatization. Many, coming to the mountains, walk often and for a long time in the mountains. In this case, they can acclimate better, but “will kill” legs and get enough stress for the body. And they simply won’t have time to recover between now and the start.

Ideally you should arrive 20 days before the race, if time is short then 5 days or more. If there is no weather at all, then just before the start of a day, but the second, third and fourth days are usually the most unfavorable, here you can enter the acute phase of acclimatization.

When you arrive in the mountains for the competition, the training load in hours must be the same as what you did at home, and must not exceed 50% of the race.

And remember that any walk in the mountains is a load comparable to a light home run under normal conditions.

How to correctly assess the load in training in preparation

When it comes to training in the mountains, then only in hours, you have to forget about kilometers. The coverage, the relief is constantly changing, and only the volume in hours and the pulse are important – the rest are just numbers, and it makes little sense.

Read also: Trail running: 5 bodybuilding exercises