©istockphoto/vm

©istockphoto/vm It hap­pens to all sea­soned trail run­ners, soon­er or lat­er: the plateau.

You’ll know it’s hap­pened to you when it feels like no mat­ter how often or how far you run, you don’t seem to be mak­ing any notable progress. If this sounds famil­iar, it may be time to shake up your trail run­ning habits. Here’s what you need to do to get over that hump.

Bring on the Hills
Very few trail run­ners will claim to have mas­tered the arts of run­ning uphill and downhill—there is vir­tu­al­ly always room for improve­ment. In addi­tion to tack­ling hills on your reg­u­lar trail runs, you should also incor­po­rate hill-spe­cif­ic train­ing to gain con­fi­dence and improve your technique.

As painful as they are, hill repeats are an effec­tive way of boost­ing your uphill pow­er. Throw in the occa­sion­al run that takes you up a long, steady climb, and don’t for­get to focus on those down­hill por­tions, too. These runs won’t be as much fun as your typ­i­cal trail run, but they’ll help turn your weak­ness­es into strengths.

Boost Your Effort
It’s hard to sim­ply vow to run faster on trails—unlike roads, the vary­ing ter­rain of trails requires you to inevitably slow your pace at cer­tain sec­tions, like when fac­ing a long uphill sec­tion. Rather than focus­ing on the clock, focus on your effort. You can do this in the form of inter­vals: find a rel­a­tive­ly short, but tech­ni­cal por­tion of a trail and prac­tice run­ning it with greater effort than you’re used to. Take a break, then do it again. Keep these work­outs rel­a­tive­ly short at first, as you’re like to become fatigued much faster when you’re push­ing much hard­er. Over time, increase the num­ber of inter­vals and the dis­tance of the seg­ment that you’re running.

Cross Train
For many trail run­ners, the great­est short­cut to improv­ing your trail run­ning skills is to put some work in at the gym. Strate­gic strength train­ing focus­ing on your core, legs, and bal­ance and coor­di­na­tion will give you a notice­able boost on the trails. Leg work­outs can include squats, sin­gle leg squats, and var­i­ous types of lunges, while core work can include bicy­cles and numer­ous plank vari­a­tions. Add a sta­bil­i­ty or bosu ball to work on your balance.

Pick a New Distance
Shake things up by chal­leng­ing your­self to run a new dis­tance. For instance, find a goal race that tack­les more mileage than you’ve ever run before. As your long runs become even longer, you’ll sur­prise your­self with what you’re capa­ble of.

But it’s not always about run­ning far­ther: if you’re used to run­ning ultras, why not switch it up—sign up for a short­er dis­tance than you’re used to, but chal­lenge your­self by ramp­ing up your effort. When you’re used to run­ning long and steady, run­ning short­er but faster can be a refresh­ing change of pace.

Swap Out Your Shoes
When was the last time you picked up new trail run­ning shoes? Beyond that, when was the last time you were prop­er­ly fit­ted for trail run­ners? If it’s been awhile, you might be sur­prised at how much of a dif­fer­ence a new pair of kicks can make. Pick­ing shoes that are suit­able to the ter­rain you tread (whether that’s wet, mucky dirt trails or slick rock) can help boost your con­fi­dence. It’s much eas­i­er to throw your­self into those down­hills when you know your shoes will pre­vent you from slipping.

Take a Breather
Don’t for­get to take your rest days! If you’re the type who likes to be on the go, rest days can be even more chal­leng­ing than the hard­est of workouts—but they’re a key com­po­nent to any train­ing reg­i­men and are a must for pre­vent­ing injuries. Remem­ber, rest days don’t mean you need to stay on the couch all day long—you can still do things like go on a long walk or bike ride, or hit up a yoga class.