Trail running insights from Lasse Tufte

Known as the founder of the Tufteparks (outdoor training parks), which now number 135 across Norway, and for sporty images as a "human flag" and acrobatic couples exercises with Funkygine, trail running has now become the major focus for Lasse Tufte.

What kind of workouts did you start with? 

Like most boys aged around 16, I joined a gym and started lifting weights. The aim was solely to become as big as possible as quickly as I could, no matter what. Unfortunately, this still seems to be the trend we see among young people today. To start with this is really fun, a lot is going on, and you quickly get stronger and bigger. But as progress starts to stagnate, you also lose your enthusiasm and not least your motivation for training, which also happened in my case, since training can be just a means to an end.

Have you always been active?

I've probably been active all my life, mainly with soccer, but also as guest appearances in a number of other sports. Running has always been close to my heart, and this is one of the arenas that I've always used. Not because I have this aptitude or because I put in the necessary training, but because this was a type of training that suited me perfectly in terms of pushing myself, since when the going gets tough a lot of the effort is between your ears.

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You've recently progressed from a key focus on strength to devoting more energy to cardio training. What has triggered this development for you?

In the last two years I've really enjoyed running, especially trail running, but this is probably related to the general development in my training regime. When I lost my motivation as it became harder and harder to build up my resistance training, I and some friends started to look for alternative training methods. This was when we really started to train almost exclusively with own body weight. Ever since then I've been much more focused on training for pleasure, which gives a sense of achievement. So for the past five years my training regime has been almost completely unstructured. I've trained exactly as I wanted to, every single day, and if I haven't been keen on training I've refrained. I’ve really enjoyed swimming, climbing, SUP surfing, training with own body weight and running. I gradually often caught myself thinking that "I haven't trained for several days", even though I had actually swum, run and climbed, besides various other activities. But since these are voluntary activities that I choose to engage in, without thinking of what this contributes in terms of strength, etc., it did not feel like training in the same way as before.

How did the Tufteparks start up?

Tufteparks were a result of how we started to train with own body weight, rather than external loads. At that time this equipment did not exist, neither in training centers nor outdoors. I also grew up with outdoor training apparatus at both primary and secondary school, but in the 1990s strict requirements were made of safety surfaces, etc., which meant that all of this apparatus was declared to be hazardous and removed. So when I designed and constructed the very first Tuftepark this was so that I and my environment could have an outdoor training arena, so that we no longer had to use traditional equipment in our new, untraditional way. So even though I often get a lot of praise for inventing this apparatus, in many ways all I've done is to re-introduce and re-popularize training with own body weight, but not really anything new. Since then, we've seen a tidal wave all over the country that has really put this training method back on the map, now with 135 Tufteparks, in which all counties are represented.

When did you decide to start trail running?

Around two years ago, almost by chance I started to run in forests and fields, rather than asphalt and treadmill, and this was the start of my trail running career. After attending Xreid in 2016 this really took off, followed by a whole summer of running on mountain peaks, and a good introduction to the mountain wind and weather conditions. Without any doubt, this is what I love doing most today.

Why?

There's probably just one thing I like more than running, and that is going ape. I've always loved climbing trees, hopping from rock to rock. etc. So trail running, and especially tough and grueling trails, is the ultimate combination that I really enjoy the most. Not to forget that you get to see some amazing scenery when you run in the forest and mountains. There's also peace that you don't find anywhere else, and a peace that you feel even when your pulse is high and your heart is beating madly.

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How did you become good at running? 

For me, this has two aspects. First of all, I've always enjoyed running, and it's never been forced on me as a team sport and so on, as something I wasn't really keen on. Secondly, I have a good tolerance for this kind of endurance, since I can run with lactic acid, range and minor cramps without giving up. So I've always believed that running is a question of what's between your ears - until you start talking about top sportsmen, of course. I've always been better at running than most people, but in marathons and ultra-running environments I probably wouldn't make much of a mark.

Do you have any tips for people starting out with trail running, who may be a bit overwhelmed and not know where to start? 

I think that many people, like myself, are much too focused on starting something that is really too tough or long for them, and so on. There are lots of small peaks all over the country that are perfect for trail running. There’s an especially big leap from long-distance running on asphalt to actual trail running. The muscles are challenged in a very different way, which takes a little getting used to, and the same applies to ankles, coordination, balance, etc. Finding little peaks when running on paths or off-trail is a really good start. Most people will find that they can't keep running all the way if it's a bit steep and above 100 meters, so the first goal can be to run continuously up a small peak.

Do you have any general tips for a better trail running experience? 

My very best tip for anyone keen to have the best possible trail running experience is to eliminate the time element completely. You can use a GPS workout clock, but it's better to focus on distance and elevation, rather than your running speed or how much time you've spent. Time is completely unimportant, unless you're training for a competition. You should rather focus on how far you've run and the number of meters you've covered, regardless of how much time you've spent on this. It's just as important to enjoy the scenery!

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What about sportswear for trail running? 

No matter how tough the trail is, I prefer light shoes with solid soles that can handle sharp stones, etc. but not so stiff, so that the shoe still seems very soft. In the summer, I wear a thin woolen top, either a T-shirt or a thin sweater, and running shorts with light compression, a GPS workout clock on my arm, and a light rucksack with something to drink.

Why do you think wool is good for running clothes?

What I like best about woolen garments for running is that they do not get moist and stick to the body like other textiles. Wool is also airy in a way that makes it easy to wear even if it gets damp and sweaty.

What are your plans for the future?

This summer I'll be taking part in a number of organized ultra runs, but I'm also looking forward to spending a large part of the summer and autumn out on the hills. There's a long list of peaks to be climbed and views to enjoy.

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