Training Plans

By Kari Stuart, Stuart Coaching (Hurt the Dirt sponsor)

A training plan for trails? Isn’t it about getting lost in beauty of the woods and time with friends? Heck yes is! We want you to have that trail joy, but also a little structure to minimize injury risk. The plans below that we’ve developed for Hurt the Dirt are very general.  They’ll give you an idea of distances and intensity to train, but the exact workout is up to you!

Hurt the Dirt Training Plans

The mileage in the plans build slowly and safely, with a recovery week and taper, ensuring you are ready for race day.

What pace should you train?

Most of training, including endurance runs, should be done at an easy, aerobic pace. This is a “conversational pace” where you and your friend can chat for hours about what you’ll eat after your run.

If you’ve peeked at the plan, you may be asking “what about these tempo, hill and speed sessions – aren’t those supposed to be hard?”  Yes… and no. Let me explain.

For a 5-mile speed run, you will spend most of that time (50% +) in your easy, aerobic smooth pace, this will include warm up, cool down and recovery between efforts. The rest of the time will be spent either chugging up hills or running a bit quicker than normal.  Get it?

Keeping most of your running at a lower intensity reduces your risk for injury and burnout. And there’s this weird phenomenon where plenty of easy running doesn’t actually make you slower.  Huh?!

Hill and Speed Sessions

Tuesdays are scheduled as either a speed or hill workout – both intended to increase strength and improve speed.  Trail running requires strength, and most trails are not exactly flat! So, it’s important that we train for the terrain as well as the distance.

What you do for that speed or hill workout is up to you. Pick a flatter section of the trail to zoom out and backs for a speed session, or favorite hill to do repeats.  Get creative!

Remember to run easy for your warm-up and cool-down (about 10 minutes each). You will also run easy (or maybe even walk) for your recovery time.

Be careful not to over-do the hard running – your intervals should be 3 minutes or less. A good rule of thumb is that recovery time should equal work time.  So, if you take 1 minute to hammer up a hill, run easy down that hill for at least a minute.  And remember, most of your run should be easy.

Tempo Sessions

You will see a tempo session schedule on Thursdays. Tempo running also helps you to build strength, but in a different way.  Tempo runs are steady, moderately prolonged runs at a challenging but manageable effort level.

Let’s say you run the intervals of your speed sessions at a 9/10 effort [insert high five] – your tempo efforts will be closer to a 6 {another high five}. The difference is that the tempo portion of the run is much longer than your speed intervals. You’ll still have your 5-10 minute warm up and cool down, but in the middle you’ll run a bit harder for maybe 8 minutes, 15 minutes or even 20 minutes. Depending on your experience level, you could go up to 30 minutes but I wouldn’t do much more than that.

Play around with the lengths and take some breaks between, keeping in mind that a good chunk of this workout is easy running!

Aerobic Endurance Runs a.k.a Long Runs

Long runs are where your body adapts to go the distance. Running progressively longer distances will build mental toughness and serve as a great simulation for race day. Long runs give you an opportunity to experiment with nutrition and hydration, anti-chafing products, shoes, gear, etc.

I’d recommend doing your long runs at Luton Park if you live in the area or on a very similar terrain.

Recovery Runs

Back to back long runs are a staple of training for an ultra trail run. Ultrarunners do back to back long runs as a method to safely and more efficiently increase running volume without putting in extreme long distance runs.

Sure, we’re not quite to those impressive distances yet, but getting used to running on tired legs will help you adapt and build strength. Our back to back runs will be recovery in nature – that means they are super easy and feel good!

Recovery runs are optional so listen to your legs – if they’re feeling especially tired, up your protein and fluid intake and rest if necessary.  We’re in it for the long run, and this includes recovery, active or not.

Rest days

This program includes two rest days.  For more experienced athletes, one of those rest days can be used as a low impact cross training day. One day should be 100% rest.  In short: for the love of all things, do not skip your rest days.

Active recovery

Active recovery workouts are cross training activities that are low-impact and designed to help promote blood flow, encourage healing, and stimulate cardiovascular endurance. Workouts like: swimming, biking, hiking, yoga, elliptical, etc. are all great options. Keep the effort on the lighter end.  If your body is exhausted and you need a rest day, you can substitute the active recovery days with rest instead.

Strength Training and Cross Training

We highly recommend strength training and cross training for all runners to prevent injury and maintain a balanced body. This plan does not include specific strength and cross training activities, but both are encouraged.  If you have questions about strength training, please feel free to inquire about our coaching services.

Additional Help with Training

If you decide you want more specific help, Stuart Coaching would be more than happy to discuss one-on-one coaching to give you a more customized approach and support to reach your goals.

You can also take it to the next level with their custom training plans and one-on-one coaching. You can view Stuart Coaching plans on TrainingPeaks here: Use code HTD2024 for a 10% discount on Stuart Coaching trail running plans.


The following training plan is designed for educational purposes only and is not a prescribed training plan for any particular individual. I am a certified running coach and have created this training plan with safety in mind, but you should understand that there is always the possibility of injury with physical activity. Participation in this training program is at your own risk. As a voluntary participant in these activities, you assume all risk of injury to yourself. You should consult your physician or other health care professional before starting this or any other fitness program.