Trail running can have enormous benefits for all runners both mentally and physically. We recommend incorporating it into your typical running routine on scheduled easy days whether you’re training for a road or trail races.
Getting off the roads is a great way to see new terrain and jump start that motivation when you’ve reached a plateau of doing the same old runs over and over. Trails often bring you to scenic areas, offer an ever-changing variety in terrain and allow you to reach areas that are inaccessible to the average person.
Soft surfaces can mean less force that your body is responsible for displacing in the form of shock absorption. Many runners find that when they reach a limit with total training volume on the road, they can increase it by adding a greater percentage of that volume on softer surfaces. Simply put, soft surfaces allow you to run more.
Trail running can also make you stronger as it requires using different muscles than linear running. If you’re just starting you’ll notice that every foot-strike is different and your legs will be moving not just straight and forward but up, down, left, right and at different angles, speeds, and grades. This creates a need for balance, stability, and an overall greater demand muscularly than running on the roads.
Be Prepared For The Trail And Unexpected Turns
- Footwear – Depending on the type of trails you’ll be on, consider durability, traction and protection. If you’ve decided that you enjoy trail running after your first few attempts, purchase a trail-specific running shoe. Here are trail running shoes for Men and Women from Saucony.
- Apparel – As mentioned above, one of the greatest things about trail running is that it can bring you to scenic and sometimes remote places. However, if you’re alone this means that whatever occurs regarding weather you’re the only one you’ll be able to count on. A lightweight jacket that is packable, breathable and water and/or resistant is always handy depending on the time of year.
- Nutrition – Handheld water bottles or hydration packs are a great idea as well as packing a few gels or an energy bar in case you’re out there longer than expected.
Our Most Important Tips For Effective And Safe Trail Running
- Be Aware Of Footing – Remember zoning out and daydreaming on that road loop around your neighborhood? Not going to happen on the trails. Scan ahead and be ready to think fast. You’ll be constantly responding to rocks, roots, turns, changes in grades and anything else waiting for you around the bend. When you reach those scenic spots that you want to take in – stop. Many ankles have rolled by trying to enjoy a picturesque view without slowing down. Watch your footing while you’re still moving!
- Advance Gradually – Trail running will use muscles that you’ve likely never used before and you’ll likely be sore in new places too. The good news is that all those muscles will get stronger if you stick with it and progress gradually. Start slowly by adding in one trail run a week for at least four weeks before adding in more to allow your body time to adapt to the new stress.
- Consider Routes Carefully – The word “trail” can mean lots of things. What is great for hiking or mountain biking may not be ideal for running. What looks like four miles on a map may take you the same amount of time as a 10 miler on the roads. Lastly, many of these places are isolated; let others know exactly where you’re going.
- Run By Time And Effort – 9-minutes per mile pace on the road could translate to 12-minutes per mile on the trail with the same amount of effort spent. Remember, you’re not just moving in a straight line, your steps are lateral, up and to the side, zig zagging to get through a stream, and negotiating those rocks and roots. If you’re a stickler for what the watch says you’ll need to work on letting that go on the trail. Just remember that a slower pace might still amount to the same effort on the roads.