Q and A W/ Xterra Running Champion, Max King

Max King – Elite Trail Runner

Max King is “The King” for Xterra, the ultimate off-road Triathlon and Trail Running Series. He is a 5-time Xterra US National Champion, 4-time Xterra World Champion, London Marathon Pacer (20 miles), and considered amongst the top trail runners in the world. Growing up in Colorado, I have always followed the Xterra Games and, with great appreciation, had the chance to gain some insight from Max on how he trains and what is to be expected in the future? Sponsors: Montrail,  Our Planetary Hardware, Hammer Nutrition, Reco-Fit, Swiftwick, Polar, Rudy Project.

Q. Seems like a full schedule with work, a new daughter, and running; what is a day in the life like for a professional runner?

A. It tends to vary a lot, but I’d say wake up, breakfast with the fam, head out for my morning run, go work at Footzone, either a second run or coaching in the afternoon/evening, back home for more time with the family. It always seems like I can’t get into a routine. I always fill my days around my training right now, but it’s always something new.

Q. What’s on tap for the upcoming year regarding Xterra, 2016 Olympic Training, and racing in general? Does it sound like you’re expanding your versatility to include shorter XC racing and ultra-endurance running?

A. Lots coming up this year. Many more trail races and a few ultras. This year, my main objective is to make as many World Championship teams as possible, including XC (Cross Country), 100k ultra, track, and mountain running. I haven’t started thinking about the next Olympiad yet, but I’m sure it will include running at least one Olympic Trials event.

Q. Trail or Track? I’m sure they each have their moments?

A. Trail, for sure. Yes, the track has its moments, and I love running fast, but I’d rather be running on a trail any day.

Q. Any favorite trails you can share?

A. It’s just like when someone asks if I have a favorite race: they are all so different and spectacular in their own right that I really can’t have favorites. Each has a unique aspect of it that makes it special. Aside from that, one of my favorite areas to run in is the Alps—spectacular trails everywhere with a hut system that compares to nowhere else in the world.

Max King


Q. Nutrition? Meat or Not? Are you a calorie tracker or burn it off?

A. Meat, absolutely. I give big props to any vegetarian athlete that can perform well. There may be a diet out there that is perfect for athletes, raw, veg, vegan, paleo, high carbs, high protein, but I enjoy food way too much to have to be restricted to a particular diet. I couldn’t do it. And I don’t track calories. I try to eat a healthy, well-balanced diet. My weight doesn’t fluctuate, and I don’t have the time to track calories.

Q. Outside of running, how do you mentally and physically prepare for racing?.. Yoga?, Strength Conditioning?, Biking?, Swimming?

A. Physically, I try to do some low-weight strength training and/or yoga a couple of times a week. During winters, I’ve started ski mountaineering which has really helped with my climbing ability. Mentally, nothing special other than finding a sustainable training regimen. I think that’s the biggest thing for many athletes’ careers; they don’t figure out how to make it sustainable over the long run and end up burning out. So I do what I need to do. I’m self-motivated and love to run in the mountains, but I also like a good track workout as well. If I feel like I’m getting burnt out, I take a break or decrease the workload.

Q. Do you utilize fitness tech, gadgets, or apps for training and racing?

A. I don’t rely heavily on them, but I think one of the most important things for athletes that are really trying to get faster or in better shape is heart rate. It’s THE most important metric you can track, so I use a Polar HR monitor during training on pretty much all of my runs. I track mileage that way with a GPS, but it’s really secondary to HR and time on my feet.

Q. Any specific gadgets or apps you would recommend to our readers?

A. My favorite has been the Polar RCX-5 GPS. Polar is the best for measuring HR, and their system with a separate GPS sensor is key for me. I’m a watch wearer, and so an all-in-one unit doesn’t work for me. The RCX-5 is small enough to wear all the time, and I can grab the GPS unit w/ 20hr battery life along with the HR strap when I head out the door.

Q. Couple songs that come to mind that gets you over the hump when training or racing?

A. I don’t normally listen to music when I run, so it’s usually the last thing I listen to that gets stuck in my skull. Rather annoying, actually. Most of the time,  I’ll warm up to Linkin Pare, and that can get me pretty fired up for a shorter race.

Q. Any basic tips for those who are looking to enhance their running skills?

A. Train. There’s no secret sauce or pill you can take to get better. It’s hard work, pure and simple. The way to pack the most training into a shorter time is to do the mileage on hills. Speed and strength work in disguise is what my old coach used to tell me.