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Coach Jean’s Gain Training Tips

Trail running invariably means you are going to face some elevation. You have to prepare physically and mentally for the ups and downs. Here are Jean Haniquaut’s tips on how to come to the start line ready to race.  

You should be aware that for many races in Vietnam, particularly for Vietnam Mountain Marathon, elevation training is very important as some of the gradients are pretty intense! 

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In contrast, for most road running races, you simply need stamina and speed.  

If you are moving from road to trail, you will need to focus on the specificity of trail running and hills. In my view, if you want to do well, or simply enjoy your race experience, training for the hills is not optional!  

Here, I’ll give you some keys to introduce specific elevation training sessions to your training program. 

Running on hills

If you are staying in a mountainous area, you are so lucky! You just have to lace up your shoes, go out and run!  

This is very fortuitous, because by running the hills, you will naturally train your body to cope with them. 

Nevertheless, there are some things you can do to improve your training on hills. 

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First, don’t forget to train with poles. Moreover, you can include some short high intensity hill repetitions to increase your power. You should also do some downhill repetitions to help your legs deal with the hammering they take on descents.  

Training in the flatlands

On the other hand, if like me, you are living in a flat country or city…. well, good luck!  

This situation means hill training is not the easiest part of your routine, but there are still solutions.  

To subject yourself to my favourite form of city hill training, you’ll need to find stairs with at least 100 steps, or a short hill with around 20 meters of elevation. 

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A simple workout is to go up and down as much as you can during 45 minutes to an hour. 

Vary up your technique by taking 1, 2 or 3 steps at a time. This will help get you used to climbing technical trails. This exercise will increase your balance and strengthen your knees and ankles. 

Of course when you do this workout on a staircase, you also have to go down by the stairs… don’t take the elevator! This part is the most important: this is the only way for you to prepare your muscles for the descents.  

If this kind of training is new to you, start slowly, taking 1 step at a time, then try to increase the speed and vary the number of steps you take.  


Also, during your weekend long easy run, you should include elevation. If you have to do your long run in a flat area, you can add some stair reps with 100m of elevation for every 5km loop you run. That means on a 20km run, you will be adding around 400-500 meters of gain.  

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Non-running workouts

To prepare the muscles for uphills, you can also add some gym workouts, such as squats, lunges and leg press.  

Unfortunately there is not really specific indoor training machine to prepare the muscles for downhills, so like me, you will have to sweat in your staircase! 

Good luck! If you want more details or help to prepare your next challenge, feel free to contact me: 

About Jean

Jean Haniquaut is a French ultra-runner and lover of mountains and outdoors activities. After 10 years of rock climbing, he discovered trail running and fell in love. He’s finished six 100 mile races in Europe, plus the VMM 100 miles.