8 Important Tips for Those Who Want to Start Running Trails...
So… You are thinking about getting into trail running? Chances are you are either a long-time road runner looking for a new challenge or change of scenery or have never laced up a pair of running shoes and want to try something new and exciting in order to accomplish your fitness goals.
Whatever reason you have for wanting to get into trail running, you will find that it can quickly become one of the most thrilling and exhilarating fitness experiences you will ever do.
Trail running is all about adventure and fun – of course, everyone loves to have some adventure in their daily fitness regimes, and while trail running is one of the best ways to have these two elements in one activity, it is important to keep in mind some tips that will help you get the most out of your trail running experience.
1. Choose Your Trail Wisely
Well, it comes as one of the most obvious things you should know. However, surprisingly, a lot of people jump straight to running on a trail without even planning there route or taking into consideration the degree of difficulty of the trail such as, elevation profile and technicality of the trail. They don’t do the research in finding out which trail would be better suited for their skill level. This makes you vulnerable to injury, over exhaustion, or getting lost. There are many resources, such as All Trails, out there to help you discover and choose the best trail for you.
2. Think Trail Safety First
After you have chosen the trail you want to run, ensuring your safety while out on the trail should be your next priority. You should make it a habit to inform someone about where you are headed and when they should expect you back. In an unfortunate event of an emergency, they know where to start looking for you if you should lose your cell service. Having a running partner on the trail with you can also alleviate some risks as well. If you can't get a partner to run with you, you can always get a map. However, thanks to technology, there are many devices and applications one can use to find there way. If you are planning on running in an area where cell service is spotty or non-existent, than carrying a satellite tracking device such as "SPOT tracker" may be beneficial in order for friends and family to know where you are at all times.
3. Gear Matters
Apart from wearing proper running clothes that are comfortable for you, trail running in most cases can be more demanding in technicality as wells as perceived effort than road running. Because of that additional gear is high recommended for trail running. Proper trail running shoes is essential for trail running as they are designed for increased traction and stability that is demanded by trails. Also because you will find yourself most likely needing to hydrate more, it is recommended that you have some sort of hydration system that can be used to carry plenty of water and nutrition as well as other important gear. These can come in either simple handhelds, waist belt, or vest style. Also depending on the elevation profile of the trail, trekking poles may prove to be useful for helping you on inclines. There are many different types of gear that also come in many different styles. It is important that you choose gear so that you believe will best suit your needs.
4. Stay Aware of Your Surroundings
Being aware of your surrounding on the trail is very important. Depending on the trail and geographical location, there can be many hazards to be aware of. A lot of trails are referred to as single track which basically means it is not wide enough to support passing very easily. Because of this you need to be on the look out for other trail traffic such as mountain bikers, hikers, and other trail runners. Other hazards can be steep drop offs (if running in the mountains) and dangerous wild life such as snakes. Maintaining your situation awareness not only improves your safety on trail, you will also find yourself being able to take in more the beauty around you.
5. Watch Your Step
This comes off as a small yet important detail to remember while you are trail running. Unlike the smooth surfaces of a road or track, most trails consist of uneven terrain with rocks and roots. In addition to staying aware of you surroundings, it is important you also make sure you are focusing on the trail in front of you. Make sure you are watching your foot placement a little more then if you would be running on a road or track. This will you minimize your chances of getting slipped up by an uneven or a wet and mushy surface as well as tripping over rocks or roots.
6. Be Adaptable and Set Realistic Goals
If you have been running roads and are wanting to get into trail running for the first time, you need to realize that the perceived effort is vastly different between trails and roads. You shouldn't go into trail running with the expectations of being able to perform the same way in which you do on the roads. For example, say you can comfortably run an average of a 7-8 min/mile road 5k. For a trail 5k, that may convert to a 8:30-9:30 min/mile. It is important to not go into trail running with unrealistic performance goals which could result in discouragement. Having patience with your trail running and building the trail endurance can also improve your road time later on.
Listen to your body. If you find yourself getting out of breath, slow your pace or simply start hiking for a little bit. That's the beauty of trail running... you can get away with a lot more hiking and still get a great workout.
7. Pace it Up with Nutrition
You need to get enough calories and nutrients in your body so that you can get the most of your trail running experience. Nutrition, in that sense, is important. Make sure you have enough carbohydrates, so your muscles and brain have enough energy for whatever difficulty of trail you run. Make sure that you keep your fluid levels in the right measure as well – because electrolyte imbalance can get in the way of your health and fitness goals. There are many products out there such as Tailwind that you can mix in your water bottles and drink that provide you with not only proper hydration but adequate calories, carbs, and electrolytes.
8. Have FUN!...
When out on the trails you are free. Free to explore. Free to let you mind wonder. Free from the business and stress of life. There are some pretty amazing places on this earth and trail running is a great way to explore them while becoming more fit and healthy. Also, the trail running community is full of some of the most down to earth and selfless people. I would encourage to you to find of local trailing running Facebook page and connect. You will find yourself building new friendships for life.
Trail running for beginners can be challenging, but with the help of some important tips such as these stated here, it can soon become an easy and, in fact, a fun thing to do. Don't overthink it.
Run Trails...Be Fit...Stress Less...