Road running is good exercise but nothing beats the magic of running off-road on scenic trails. Whether you enjoy exploring lush green forests or traversing mountains, trail running is always enjoyable. It will boost your fitness by engaging all your muscles and tendons and is better for your joints than running on asphalt and concrete surfaces. If trail running sounds like something you want to try, read on for some useful tips.
Buy the Right Shoes
Trails are nothing like roads or sidewalks. The terrain is uneven, sometimes muddy, and you may have to cross streams and swampy areas. Regular running shoes don’t have enough grip and won’t protect your feet from sharp rocks and rough ground. You may get away with road running shoes if the trail is soft grass or a forest track, but once you venture out onto more varied terrain, it is best to invest in proper trail running shoes.
Trail running can be tough on shoes, so consider a consider a running shoe subscription. This way, when your favourite pair of Altras is ready for retirement, you can order a new pair to avoid delays.
Forget about Pace
Pace is less important when running trails. As your fitness improves and you gain technical skills, your pace will improve, but in the beginning, don’t be too despondent when it takes you far longer to traverse a trail the same distance as a road route. Trails tend to be hillier and more difficult, which means you will spend more time walking. Also, the whole point of trail running is that it’s fun, so zooming around at full throttle is beside the point.
Trail running terrain is varied. There will be tree roots, rocks and stones, and all kinds of other hazards along the way. Try and run more loosely so you can adapt to what’s under your feet and avoid obstacles. Be prepared to adjust your pace and stay relaxed as you run down declines. Downhill running over rough terrain is hard on the quads and if you tense up too much, you will pick up an injury.
Run with Friends
Trails are often isolated and when things go wrong, you could be a long way from a trailhead and possible assistance. Running with friends turns a tricky run into a fun, more social day out. Run with friends who are at a similar pace and fitness level to you, so nobody feels like they are being held back or pushed too hard. You can chat while you walk the steeper sections and enjoy the views together.
Learn to Use a Compass
It’s very easy to rely on GPS watches and other devices when trail running. GPS watches come with mapping capability, so you can plot a route and follow it from point A to point B. However, technology isn’t infallible and if your watch battery dies or it stops working for any other reason, it helps to know how to read a map and use a compass. This is especially important on more isolated routes where help is a long distance away.
Wear the Right Kit
Dress for every possible weather outcome. Expect the unexpected. Weather conditions can change very quickly in the Great Outdoors. You might start a trail run in the sunshine and then end it in the pouring rain. Invest in waterproof and breathable running gear, carry a hydration vest with plenty of water and energy snacks, and pack things like sun cream and insect repellent.
Our final tip is to enjoy yourself. Make the most of the fantastic views and don’t feel like you have to run every bit of the trail. Stop and enjoy the scenery along the way!