Fell running – a guide to training

A balanced training approach (article under construction)

Author: Colin Bishop

Training to run the fells is all about progression and balance.

Success can be achieved by following these simple rules……no matter how long or how hard you want to train.

1. Start training slowly and get fast.

2. Start training easy and  increase the difficulty .

3. Begin simply and get more complex.

Although these seem to be almost inane in their simplicity there is any amount of runners who fail to follow the basic training principles in search of a quick route to fitness. Our aim always has to be to run at our best without injury and to be able to enjoy not just running but a healthy life for years to come.

Aspects of Training

As runners we tend to over emphasis endurance in our routine, but there are other factors involved in total fitness that are sometimes discarded. As athletes we want to aim not only to reach our running goals but to be fit and healthy into old age and have the ability to get the most out of life.







The above illustration gives an idea as to the different parts of training and also the balance between them.

You can easily see that endurance is the largest part of a runners regime, training specifically for your event is important but 50% of training is devoted to other aspects of fitness. In order to avoid injury and boost performance it is very necessary to address these other areas.

Often training areas over lap, flexibility and co-ordination can be trained together as part of a warm up, speed and strength when excercised together produce a powerful athlete. Fell running is a power based sport within an endurance envelope, the ability to ascend or descend rocky terrain quickly relies on a runners innate co-ordination, speed and strength working in harmony.

We can  isolate these areas and train them to a point. Its not necessary to have Scafell Pike in your back yard to practice hill work. The important point is to raise strength, co-ordination and flexibility in unison. Imbalance will lead to injury so try and work a little of each into your program every week.


Fell running is a tough sport. It will take its toll on your body. The constant impact of thousands of foot placements at speed


can really grind you down and before you know it………niggles and injuries occur. Its a smart idea to prepare your body for the stress and strain of all terrain running. Take time to strengthen your core, back and load bearing joints/ limbs as a part of your regime.

(It took me quite a few visits to the physio before I worked out that time spent strengthening meant less time on the treatment table). Remember that we don’t just exist as runners, everything else you do during the day  is actually part of your training regime, even lifting  shopping and washing the car. Having a strong body will benefit you in other areas of your life.

Remember to start with a few reps and small or no weights until you get the exercise technique correct. It is best to gradually increase the amount you train over a period of weeks. If you are unsure get advice.

Exercises to work into your programme include:

Floor work

The plank :

Fantastic core strength workout that takes no time at all and  needs no equipment and works the plank  abdominals, back, and shoulders.

The Bridge :

Hundreds :

Heel raises:


Mountain climbers:

Iron mikes:

jump squats:

box jumps:

medicine ball slams:

Free weights:

Each time your foot hits the ground the impact force  is magnified by the speed you are going. The resultant force travels through your leg and into your spine!  A great way to prepare you body to take this impact is to add a little weight training to your routine. (Please seek assistance from a qualified weights coach before trying this) I like ‘cleans’  where a person squats to the bar and brings it to the chin in one swift controlled movement.  I would do 3 sets of 3 lifts with 80% of the maximum weight I can manage for one rep. This strengthens the whole movement chain through your back and into your legs. Creating a more powerful you.

Single leg squats (with kettlebell)

lunges (with kettlebell)


The pursuit of strength and endurance is natural for runners. It appeals to our competitive instincts. It comes at a cost though


as stronger muscles tend to shorten and place more demands on connective tissues, tendons and ligaments. Flexibility training is about retaining full range of movement in all your joints and muscles. Its best to stretch when your body is warm so after training is good (although your body soon cools down on a winters night) or after a warm bath. Too often we tend is be shy about stretching and probably unsure about which ones to do.  Here are some helpful warm ups and cool downs

Warm ups (dynamic stretches)

Cool down  (static stretches)




Lower Back









Its all very well to be strong, fast and full of running but if your poorly co-ordinated you will still lose time on rocky/ rough terrain. Co-ordination training is all about getting your brain to work with your feet. The transfer of information between your eyes and limbs needs to be automatic and instantaneous. Have you ever noticed how some runners look around and then fall over immediately after? Co-ordination doesn’t come naturally to us all but like dancing or football (if your brazilian) it can be learned and will benefit you as a runner.



Putting it all Together