Cardio workout: off-road race training plan

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With terrain including trails, hills, log piles, deep puddles, cargo nets and even bogs, they’re a perfect antidote to unimaginitive road races and less painful than obstacle races with their icy water and electric shocks. 

‘Off-road events are brilliant fun, allowing you to embrace your inner child by tearing through the forest and splashing around in puddles,’ says John Gladwin, organiser of the Grim Challenge, a 13km off-road run across an army vehicle testing track in Hampshire. ‘They’re also a great way of improving your fitness because the mixed terrain forces your body to use a wide variety of muscles.’    

An ex-international middle-distance runner, Gladwin knows a thing or two about training and has created this plan to ensure you make it to the finish line. ‘When training for a running event, the most important element is to run,’ says Gladwin. ‘But following my plan will also help you to avoid injury and build up the total-body strength you need to tackle the trickier features.’

Week Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
1 Rest Run 5km at level 4 Gym circuit  Run 5km at level 5 Rest

Gym circuit  Run 5km at level 5
 2 Rest Run 2km at level 3 to warm up, then 12min at level 7, followed by a 2km warm-down run at level 3 Gym circuit  Run 5km at level 5 Rest

Gym circuit  Run 6.5km at level 5
3 Rest Run 2km at level 3 to warm up, then do 3x3min runs at level 8 with 2min at level 1 between runs, followed by a 2km warm-down run at level 3 Gym circuit  Run 6km at level 5 Rest

Gym circuit  Run 8km at level 5
4 Rest Run 2km at level 3 to warm up, then do 4x3min runs at level 8 with 2min at level 1 between runs, followed by a 2km warm-down run at level 3 Gym circuit  Run 6km at level 5 Rest

Gym circuit  Run 9.5km at level 6
5 Rest Run 2km at level 3 to warm up, then do 5x3min runs at level 8 with 2min at level 1 between runs, followed by a 2km warm-down run at level 3 Gym circuit  Run 7km at level 5 Rest

Gym circuit  Run 11km at level 6
6 Rest Run 2km at level 4 to warm up, then do 6x3min runs at level 8 with 2min at level 1 between runs, followed by a 2km warm-down run at level 3 Gym circuit  Run 7km at level 5 Rest

Gym circuit  Run 13km at level 6
7 Rest Run 2km at level 4 to warm up, then do 8x3min runs at level 8 with 2min at level 1 between runs, followed by a 2km warm-down run at level 3 Gym circuit  Run 8km at level 5 Rest

Gym circuit  Run 5km at level 5 to
warm up, then 6min at
level 8, followed by a 5km warm-down run at level 3 
8 Rest Run 10km as fast as you can Rest

Run 6km at level 5 Rest

Rest

RACE DAY

Effort Level

Easy, up to a gentle pace: 0-3 

Able to hold a conversation: 4-5

Getting out of breath: 6-7

Can’t talk, uncomfortable: 8-9

Flat-out sprint: 10

On the next page: the gym circuit