Vertical kilometer: how to tackle it for the first time?  Here are the essential tips

Summer is mountain time for many runners. The vertical kilometer, however, remains a very different discipline from running. So, how to deal with it? Here are all the useful tips

Carlotta Montanera


The vertical kilometer it is a very challenging discipline: 1000 meters of difference in altitude on a “straight by straight” path, practically without breaks. Also because, to regulate, the 1000 meters D + must be covered in a maximum length of 5 kilometers. So a 5k that instead of being on the road goes up to the top of a mountain. Or something similar. It took the best athlete in the world 28 minutes and 53 seconds, but an already good athlete takes just under an hour. So let’s imagine 60 minutes of pure effortlessness: the muscles explode, the fatigue increases and in addition the altitude could also put in it. Among other things, on certain slopes it is very difficult or practically impossible to run, so even the athletic gesture, compared to running, changes completely. How to train then? Here are all the tips.

A matter of strength

Switching from road running to vertical is an important leap. Muscle stimuli, gesture, technique change. Change the type of effort. The fundamental component in vertical – and also in running, but we tend to forget it – is the muscle strength. Since it is basically a walk, the elastic component given by the elastic return of the running tendons is lost. In running, in fact, at every step we take advantage of the elastic return of the foot on the ground. In the walk instead there is no springback, so the muscles are always and only pushing, which must make up for the lack of return energy. It is therefore good to add to your workouts sessions of steep ascent to the pace, perhaps on dirt, or of the gym and plyometrics exercises that strengthen the muscles of the buttocks, thighs and calves. In the absence of natural climbs, the steps of your building can also help.

technique and use of the arms

In most verticals i sticks to walk. The use of sticks allows on the one hand to unload the back, on the other it improves the effectiveness of the gesture. The sticks, if used well, greatly reduce the fatigue that otherwise is exclusively of the legs. The “poles” can be used alternately with the legs in the gentler sections, but also simultaneously for the steeper sections. They both aim above the feet and, by applying strength with the arms, they help each other to rise. An alternative is to place your hands on your thighsin order to help the legs to gain strength.

which race to choose?

There are many routes suitable for a vertical and the proposals are differentiated. It starts from half vertical which provides for a difference in height halved, to reach even the triple vertical which counts 3000 meters in altitude. If you are at the beginning, it is advisable to choose the race that has the lowest altitude difference with the greatest development. One of the toughest verticals in the world is the KM Vertical de Fully in Switzerland with 1,920 meters of development, let’s say only for experts. Look for one that exceeds 4km of track for 1000mD + and you will certainly have less effort.

what shoes?

If you are at the beginning, better shoes that are not too light. In the vertical they are usually recommended “slim” trail shoes, ie light, precise and flexible enough. However, if you are a beginner, it is better to opt for something more comfortable and protective, perhaps even less light, but more “safe” for a more uncertain step.

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