It wouldn’t be too much of a sweeping statement to suggest that most roads are pretty much the same. Trails on the other hand can offer a huge variety. This is one of the beauties of trail running in fact. Each trail has its own unique terrain, but also its own unique challenges. If you’re new to trail running, we’ve got a few tips to help keep you safe out there, and hopefully to make sure you enjoy your trail runs (as much as that’s possible of course). Here are our 10 trail running tips.
Let’s go trail running
1. Start out easy
If you’re brand spanking new to trail running, try to leave your ego on the doorstep. No, that’s not a dig, it’s for your own sake. Running 5 miles on trails is most likely going to take significantly longer than it would on a road, we can tell you that for free. So, take it easy at first, get accustomed to the terrain/hills, and your times will soon pick up.
2. Watch your feet
Funnily enough, the beauty of the nature along trails can be distracting…that’s one of the main pulls of trail running in the first place! So, if you just can’t take your eyes off the scenery for a while it’s best to walk it out. When you’re running, keep your eyes on the prize: 3 or 4 feet in front of you, looking out for tree roots, rocks, lumps, bumps, mud… the list could go on. The obstacles are what makes trail running fun (but also potentially dangerous)!
3. Better safe than sorry
Whilst it’s a great feeling to get away from it all, you might want to think twice about not taking your mobile phone with you when you’re off on a run. If an accident does occur, you’re most likely to be a fair way off the beaten track. So, make sure to tell people where you’re headed and on which trail, and take your phone just to be safe.
4. Look after your feet
It may shock you to hear that your feet are fairly important when it comes to running. So, if you’re looking to get into trail running, then make sure to invest in a decent pair of trail-running shoes. They’ll help you to handle the rough terrain and keep your feet in better nick that road running shoes will.
5. Add a bit of bling
Hats, sunglasses, gaiters. Bling, bling, bling! Not only will you look the part, but these sorts of accessories can be much more helpful than you’d think. Sunglasses of course protect your eyes, but also help to keep out tree branches or insects. Gaiters keep help the dirt out of your shoes. It might not sound that annoying, but once you get a few pebbles rubbing against your heel you’ll be crying out for a pair!6.
6. Know the rules
That’s it, back to school we go. No, but do make sure you know the basic rules of play when trail running. For instance, downhill runners should generally give way to uphill runners (as it’s harder for the uphill runner to stop and get going again up a steep incline). Run through the puddles, not around them to avoid making the trail wider (yep, that’s permission for you to get nice and filthy). And it goes without saying, don’t litter! Trail runners should keep on marked trails and leave no trace they were ever there…mysterious.
7. Take plenty of fluid
Most trail runs aren’t the odd 20-minute circuit here and there, they can take a while. Running for long periods (generally over 60/90 minutes) means you’re losing a lot of sweat, and with it, electrolytes. So, take water with you, but also consider electrolyte drinks. Electrolyte drinks such as Staminade are packed full of magnesium but also contain carbohydrates to give you an energy boost.
8. Rest and recovery
It’s easy to get addicted to trail running, we get it. But doing too much, too fast, too soon is a classic school-boy error. Running up hills and across rough terrain can tax the body more than you might realise. So, weave in the odd trail run to your routine at first, and build up slowly.
9. Adjust your pace
In the same way that a cyclist changes gears to go up a hill, adjust your pace according to what’s in front of you. If it’s a short, sharp incline then don’t sprint up it to get it out the way quickly. Try to maintain a consistent effort level, and walk if you must (don’t worry, many ultra-runners walk the up-hills and run the downs/flats!).
10. Practice makes perfect
It might sound crazy practicing jumping over logs (or you might feel like a superhero) but practicing jumping over obstacles can actually help to train your brain in the same way as learning any other new activity would. If you find a technical stretch on a trail, try running repeats of it, focusing on your form and finding the right line. It can be a fun way to break up your normal trail run as well!
So, there you go, 10 straight forward tips to get you going along those trails nicely. But remember, at the end of the day the most important thing is to make sure you come back with a smile, even if it’s more of a grimace through gritted teeth. If you come across a wildflower or spot a beautiful bird, then treat yourself; pause and take a moment to enjoy it. Otherwise, what’s the point?!
Main image by Greg Rosenke on Unsplash
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