Interview by Maria E. Bellini
Spring is in full swing, with the sun eagerly knocking at the door, as hot Italian weather seeps into everyday life. Escape to the trails and you won’t be alone. Outdoor lovers are out and about as the hiking and trail running season sprightly blossoms into summer.
I tracked down trail runner and Mountaineer, Martin John Trout – an Englishman living in Italy, before he shoots off to the hills, in preparation for the coming season’s adventures! You can read Martin’s story HERE, when we first caught up with him, curious to find out about his Italian outdoor experiences.
Martin, other than being a Trail runner himself, is a Trail running coach with Endurance Training in Progress. I was interested in seeing if he had any advice and tips for trail runners planning on enjoying the Italian trails, be it in a race or not.
Maria – Italy on Trail: Martin, you’ve been running, hiking and mountaineering in Italy for the past twenty years, from a time when just walking on the trails seemed to be an activity reserved for a select few. Today things are very different. What changes have you seen in the Italian Trail and Sky Running movement in the past 10 years?
Martin John Trout: There has been a huge upsurge in the Italian Trail running scene over the last 10 years. This is both good and bad. Whereas previously there were much fewer available races now you have to make sure you register for a race months in advance or you may find yourself without a place. Unfortunately this increase in popularity has brought many people without mountain experience into the mix with consequent problems for safety and respect for the delicate mountain environment.
Train Creatively To Prepare For Elevation Gain
Maria IOT: With Alps and Dolomites in the north, plus Apennines that run down the length of the country, trail race profiles frequently climb to over 1000 a.s.l.
This can present a challenge for runners living and training in flat areas. Martin, from a coaching point of view what advice would you give for hill and altitude training – if you don’t live near mountains?
M.J.T: Well first of all you have to get creative! Climbing hills is all about muscular power and elasticity. Working on circuit training with a lot of jumping – such as you might do in a gym is a good start, but finding somewhere with a lot of steps – athletics stadium, outdoor shopping center – and doing series of step running and jumping (bounding, one leg hops, jumping with feet together, side jumps etc.) can really help to develop neuromuscular efficiency.
Hill Repeats, Resistance And Altitude
M.J.T: Hill repeats are always a good way to develop both power and VO2max and even a short hill of 80-100 meters can give a good workout if the effort is high and the repetitions are numerous.
Alternatively it is possible to increase muscle efficiency with very short 8 to 10 second anaerobic alactic hill repeats with 100% intensity and long recoveries.
You still have to work on resistance so longer climbs should be practiced when you get the chance to go to the mountains, maybe at the weekends.
For altitude there is not a lot you can do. If you have money to burn you can afford a hypobaric tent or numerous consecutive long weekends in the mountains, spending time both exercising and sleeping between 2-3000 meters. Otherwise you just have to grin and bear it.
Dolomites or Alps?
Maria IOT: Martin, you’ve run in plenty of races both in the Dolomites and in the Alps. Can you sum up the main differences?
M.J.T: I have a love/hate relationship with the Dolomites. The scenery there is indeed pretty amazing though a little bit too postcard material, but to my mind it doesn’t compare to the grandiose majesty of the Western Alps. The footpaths in the Dolomites are often hard underfoot with lots of stones that don’t make running very easy. On the other hand paths in areas such as Valle d’Aosta and Piemonte are principally on grass and mud trails, which are easier to run. Tourist receptivity is definitely better in the Dolomites though.
Best Places to Run, Walk and Relax?
Maria IOT: Italy’s not only about Trail “Races” – One of the best things about Italy is the incredible network of way-marked trails. It’s perfectly possible, with a bit of research to plan your own holiday. What’s your top-spot for a week of walk/running and chilling in Italy?
M.J.T: For the running I would say anywhere in Valle d’Aosta but if I have the option of chilling as well I would probably have to say Trentino. For example, the area around Riva and Arco on Lake Garda, especially in the late spring is great for both running and mountain biking.
In the winter months I would probably choose the Ligurian coast. In the southern part of Liguria I would probably choose a base in Monte Marcello or Tellaro. In the more central area you can’t beat the Cinque Terre while towards the northern part of the coast Finale Liguria is a favorite for both running and rock climbing.
Thank you Martin!
And Enjoy the Trails!
Maria Elisabetta Bellini is Italyontrail.com’s founder, born in the U.K, she came to running whilst living in Italy, where she still lives and trains. Never ceasing to marvel at what’s at the summit of a hill, or around the bend along the trail, she loves using trail running as a means to explore nature, contemplation and Italy.