By MH Staff - Posted on 25th February 2014
Use AJ Calitz and Ryan Sandes’ trail running tips to pick up your pace
For beginners, Sandes recommends two or three short runs during the week and a long run on the weekend. Do your long runs slowly, Calitz advises. “In my long run, I take my time. If I see a nice view, I’ll stop and take a photograph or have a stretch and a drink of water at a stream.” “If you combine that with cross-training or stabilising exercises then you’re well on your way to being a trail running machine,” Calitz guarantees.
“The best way to become a better runner is to do more running,” Sandes says. “Sitting in the gym and pumping iron so that you’ve got big arms is not going to help you when you run,” says Calitz. “There are no shortcuts; you’ve got to spend a lot of time on the trail. No matter what you do, if you spend enough time at it, you’ll become great at it.”
In his sport, Calitz’s hefty bulk is a disadvantage. He weighs 76kg, while most runners clock in around 60kg. “Because I’m a bigger guy I need to spend more time climbing. I’m not going to let that influence me. It just means you have to work harder which means you’re going to be mentally stronger.”
“You need to be fit and have a certain amount of talent,” says Sandes. “But your mental state can override your physical state.” If the distance of a run seems intimidating, break your route race into a lot of mini goals, recommends Sandes. “I focus on just getting to the next checkpoint or sometimes it’s just getting to that next tree.”
“If I run in the mountains, I take all my stuff with me,” says Calitz. “I know it’s going to weigh half a kilo but it’s going to make you stronger up the hill and one day you’ll need it. If you get hurt, you need to stay warm, hydrated and fed until someone can come and help you.” “I’ve often made the mistake of running up to the top of Table Mountain on a hot summer’s day and it’s actually freezing cold,” Sandes says. Both runners recommend packing a rain jacket, space blanket, cellphone, medi-kit and enough food for a couple of hours.
“Nutrition cannot be overemphasised – you’ve got to train the way that you race,” Calitz says. When he trains, he uses one energy gel per hour. “You always use more water and electrolytes than you think,” he warns. You have to realise that you’re losing about 600 to 750ml an hour so you’ve got to replenish. If I train more than two hours, I take a banana and a fruit- or cereal-bar.”
Once you’re comfortable with your mileage, go for the tricky slopes. “Find sections that are technical and push yourself through them – you’ll learn to do it quicker as your responses get faster,” says Calitz. “You’ll learn more about your body, build core strength and figure out the grip on your shoes.”
“I’m a huge fan of running hills,” says Calitz. It’s going to build strength – mental strength and core strength.” If you can get to a place where you start enjoying hill training, then you’re doing it right. “There’s no greater form of satisfaction than after a hill session when you felt like you wanted to throw up, but you made it. It’s those sessions that you carry into your race.”
Calitz’s beach training is his fitness secret. “Running up dunes is some of the best training advice I can give. It doesn’t have to be long dune – you can do static running. My favourite exercise is doing a couple of thousand steps up and down dunes. It’s low-impact and you sink more into the sand, so it builds great strength.”
“Half of the training is recovery so if that training was worthwhile and you’re not recovering properly you’re bringing it down,” Sandes says. “And if your body’s run down, you’re going to get sick and you’re not going to be able to train.”