Use Stairs to Simulate Vertical Ascent
Stairs provide the perfect city vert. You’ll get used to some of the demands you’ll encounter in your next trail race by running up and down as many stairs as possible. I coached an ultrarunner in Florida who used a six-story firefighter training tower to simulate vert in preparation for the rigors of an upcoming 100-miler. He power-hiked up and slow-jogged down while wearing a 15-pound weight vest to put the eccentric load on his quads. Another athlete did a 30-minute warm-up (with a weight vest) in his five-story Manhattan apartment building before his 45-60-minute midweek run. Utilize stairwells in office buildings, apartment buildings,or hotels —find a publicly accessible staircase and knock out a circuit.
Travel for business? Make sure your carry-on is a backpack. Hike the terminal with your “weight vest” while waiting on your flight. I once did a 30-minute, three-story stair-hiking circuit with my carry-on backpack in the Atlanta airport as an impromptu training session.
Bridge and Bleacher Vert
Bridge or bleacher circuits are another good training tool for hills. Many bridges are built as an arch, so you can yo-yo back and forth over them to accumulate some vertical. Run over to your local high school and run a bleacher circuit. One athlete I know has coined one of his bleacher circuits, “Death by Bleachers.” He spent 10 miles on the bleachers in a single, leg-pounding workout circuit.
Hit the Treadmill
The treadmill is another good tool for simulating climbing. Some of the newer treadmills go negative to simulate downhill running, too. Do 20-40 minute mountain climbs at 10%+ grade. You can also mimic rolling hills by going up for a few minutes, then flat and faster for a few minutes to simulate downhill if your treadmill doesn’t have the downhill grade capability.
Another strategy for preparing for mountain running is weighted legs: heavier deadlifts, squats, and lunges. One specific workout for a flatlander athlete included adding Bulgarian split squats to a tempo trail circuit.He only had a one-mile curvy, flat,and wooded trail near his home which he ran at tempo effort to exaggerate the pronation and supination that trail running demands. He then recovered with an easy jog at the turnaround before another tempo curvy mile back. He followed that with a recovery jog to his house, where he had dumbbells in his driveway. He then did a high rep set of weighted Bulgarian split squats with a small hop on each leg to simulate eccentric load on the leg, then jogged back to the trail and repeated the circuit.