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This week we hear from Hong Kong based runner Mo Devlin. If you race regularly in Hong Kong you will know Mo as he’s a self confessed “racing junkie” who competes for podium places from August to June and spends almost every weekend finding a race from 5km to 50km.

Mo has a 2:30 marathon PB and recent results include:

  • Hong Kong 9 Dragons 50km 4th Overall
  • Hong Kong King Of The Hills Series Overall 3rd Place
  • Salomon To The Top of HK- 1st Overall
  • XTE New Year’s Mountain Race- 1st Overall
  • Salomon Hong Kong, RUNIVORE, AMO Sunglasses sponsored athlete.

Without further ado, let’s turn things over to Mo.

We all want to run faster but being able to run hard and fast on trails is completely different than running fast on roads. When you’re running on trails, you encounter a wide range of surfaces, different obstacles and a variety of levels (flat, up, down etc) so your movement, your running form and your gait are never consistent and vary depending upon the terrain. You have to have a strong core and very strong ankles, knees and hips to be able to absorb impact without using too much energy or getting injured.

Despite this many trail runners don’t incorporate any specific strength work into their training programme even though it is a vital component to consider. Strengthening exercises increase muscle strength and power, and therefore, will help you to run harder and longer. As a bonus they help prevent injuries when you are smashing your way up and down the trails.

I include at least one dedicated leg strengthening session per week. The purpose is to increase strength and power in the major muscles of the legs (glutes, hamstrings, quads and calves) and to add some mobility in key areas like the hips. It also really helps reduce the possibility of injury.

My routine varies a little bit each week to keep it fresh and interesting and to keep stimulating muscle adaptation but my usual workout will generally include the following elements. For all round muscular strength and power I do some combination of squats, deadlifts, single leg squats, leg curls and leg extensions using suitable weights or body weight where appropriate. As a guide I do 3 sets of 6-8 reps for each exercise with adequate recovery between sets.

Because running is an activity in which we run on one leg at a time it is sometimes better and more specific to include single leg work so sometimes my deadlifts are single leg deadlifts etc. In addition I like to always include some functional strength exercises like single leg hops, double leg bounds, box jumps, lunges in different directions (forward, sideways and backwards) and other exercises that work the muscles in different ways to stimulate greater strength power and mobility.

This is quite a hard work out and should be done on a day that is designated as a hard training day on your programme as you will need adequate recovery the next day. It also takes quite a few weeks to build up strength and power so start cautiously, always use correct technique rather than heavy resistance and you will see great gains over time.

Tip 1– to maximise my training I do this work out on the same day that I have a hard run by running in the morning and completing the strength work in the afternoon or evening so that I can use the following day as a recovery and not worry about missing running two days in a row. This is in line with the principle of keeping your hard days hard and your easy days easy. Remember that as with any type of training, the gains come during the recovery period afterwards, not during the training itself so you have to include recovery as an integral part of your training.

Tip 2- Like many runners I hate taking days off from training so on my recovery days I cross train by swimming or cycling or doing some other exercise that isn’t high impact and doesn’t place too much stress on the body. This is active recovery and the easy exercise helps stimulate blood flow and actually speeds up the recovery process.