Looking to get off the beaten path and get back to nature while enjoying a good workout? Then trail running may be just what you’re looking for!
Trail running offers the benefits of running – good for your heart, your bones and your mind – but with an added bonus. When you’re running on trails instead of pavement, there’s always new challenges, new sights and variety that keeps things interesting.
If you’re new to the sport of trail running, here are 12 tips to get you started:
Wear the right shoes. If you’re going to make trail running a thing, invest in a good pair of trail running shoes. They have a lower profile and provide better traction than regular running shoes. They should fit snugly in the heel but have some room in the toe box.
Prepare your body. Wear sunscreen and bug spray. A hat and sunglasses can also help protect you from wayward tree branches, insects and UV rays.
Don’t run alone. Or if you do, make sure that someone knows where you’re headed. Bring along a cell phone and photo ID. A trail map is also a good idea.
Bring water and fuel. Make sure you have enough for your planned run, plus a little extra in case you get lost.
Slow your pace. Trail running can be exhausting at first and you can’t expect to keep up with your usual pace. Find a new rhythm as you navigate hills, obstacles and different terrain. Going too fast is one way to get hurt, so get used to a slower pace.
Pay attention to time. If you normally run 5 miles, you can’t automatically assume that you can head out on a 5-mile trail run. Instead, decide how long you want to run, and halfway through, turn around and head back. This will give you an idea of how far you can go while sticking with a comfortable trail running pace.
Keep your eyes on the trail. It’s easy to get distracted by the sights around you, but if you don’t pay attention to where you’re about to step, you’re more likely to trip or fall. Your eyes should be on the trail right in front of you.
Use your arms. Keep your arms a little wider than usual to help you balance. Your arms can also help with uphill climbs.
Lift your feet. Trails can be very rocky and filled with obstacles. Lifting your feet is one of the best ways to avoid trips and falls.
Adapt to different terrain. Trail running takes some getting used to, especially if the only place you’ve ever run is on pavement or a track. Get used to tackling obstacles, like running through mud, over downed tree limbs and on uneven surfaces. Better to slow down so your body adjusts to the new demands being placed on it. This will help you get stronger and avoid injury.
Tackle hills in stride. When going uphill, take short, quick steps and use your arms to propel you. Accept that it’s okay to walk. When going down a gradual hill, open your stride and lean into the downhill. If it’s steep, use a stair-stepping motion instead.
Progress slowly. You may not initially notice how hard trail running is on your body because of the more forgiving terrain underfoot, but you’ll feel it afterwards. Give your body a chance to recover between runs. Start out by only doing one trail run a week, and then every 2 – 3 weeks, add an additional weekly run as your body adapts.