Trail running is an exhilarating way to explore the great outdoors while getting an amazing workout. Breathing in the scents of a natural trail, as well as the physical exertion, makes trail running an activity like no other.
Trail running is different from road running. The terrain may be muddy, rocky or slippery, and there are more variations in gradient. Trail runners use more balance than road runners and need to be able to adapt quickly to differences on the ground.
If you’re new to trail running, this guide will give you some top tips for getting started and staying safe on the trail.
Start with an Easy Trail for Beginners
If you are new to running, it is best to begin slowly on a local trail that has moderate terrain to help you build your endurance. Find trails with short, easy runs and gradually increase the distance and difficulty as you become more comfortable on the trails.
It is also a good idea to plan ahead when trying a new trail for the first time. For example, map out your route in advance or plan a simple ‘out and back’ run for a set length of time to familiarise yourself with the trail before exploring further.
Invest In Trail Running Shoes
A good pair of trail running shoes has plenty of grip and support to help navigate the uneven terrain and make sure you stay comfortable running. If you have wider feet, trail shoes with a roomier toe box will be beneficial. Read more here on trail running shoes for wide feet.
Trail shoes have features that make them suitable for natural surfaces, such as fixings for gaiters, which stop mud and debris from entering your shoes. They also provide high water resistance, as well as features that help protect your feet from impact from rocks, sticks and other debris.
Trail Running Gear
Other than a good pair of trainers, you don’t need a lot of fancy equipment to get started trail running. Helpful clothing on the trail includes any type of moisture-wicking fabric, and a hat to help keep the sun or rain out of your eyes.
You don’t need a lot of trail running gear to start your adventures, but you do need to carry water with you. One of the best ways to do this, without having to carry a bottle, is by using a hydration pack. These are wearable running vest packs that hold a water bladder, allowing you to sip water when you need it, without the hassle of carrying a bottle.
Here are a few examples of running hydration packs, widely available online.
Take Shorter Strides
Taking shorter strides is a running form that helps maintain stability on uneven and varied terrain. Shorter, quicker steps, also mean you can react more quickly to changes in the trail, such as rocks, tree roots, and other obstacles. This can help reduce the risk of tripping and falling.
Additionally, shorter strides can also conserve energy, as they require less effort and impact on the joints. By minimising the distance between steps, runners can also maintain a lower center of gravity, which can aid in tackling steep inclines and declines.
Short strides also help increase agility and improve overall foot placement, which is essential for maneuvering through challenging trail conditions.
Awareness Along a Trail
Whether you are a new or experienced trail runner, keeping your eyes on the trail is vital. Unexpected potholes, loose rocks, slippery mud – it all happens on natural ground. Trail running will teach you to be observant and aware of your surroundings, helping you to avoid sprained ankles or worse!
If running alone, it is a good idea to let someone know where you are going and when you plan to be back, especially if you are running on a remote path. If you do get injured and have no phone signal, you will have peace of mind that someone will come looking for you.
Slow and Steady Wins
Running off-road isn’t about your fastest sprints. Instead, aim for a consistent, steady pace that will get you up the inclines and allow you to feel some recovery on the flats.
There are many benefits of running at an easy effort. It will increase your stamina, help you run uphill, and keep it enjoyable. The more you improve your trail running, you will find that your natural running pace will also get faster.
Invest in a GPS Watch
Using a GPS watch offers many benefits for running on trails. They often come with built-in maps and guidance, which is helpful on poorly marked paths. They also record data from your run, such as pace, time, distance and elevation. This means you can monitor your progress over time, which helps you to stay motivated.
Listen to Your Body
One of the best trail running tips for beginners is to listen to your body. Don’t push too hard to begin with. If you get too tired you may be more prone to mistakes and running injuries. Make sure you get enough rest when needed as this will make your runs much more enjoyable.
Build Strength and Flexibility
To enhance your running technique and increase to longer runs, spend some time working on your overall strength and flexibility. This may include some weight training twice a week, as well as yoga or Pilates to boost joint flexibility. The more time you spend improving your strength and fitness, the better you will become on the trails. You’ll be running up those tough hills in no time!
Be Courteous to Other Trail Users
Running trails may be busy at times. There are other runners, dog walkers, hikers and people cycling. Look out for other people on the trail and give them plenty of room when passing. They don’t want to be splashed by your feet as you go past. It is also nice to smile and say hi (if you can do so).
Always follow the Countryside Code, which includes not disrupting wildlife and closing gates behind you.
Tap Into the Meditative Power of Trail Running
When you are running on the trails, you can enjoy nature’s beauty. Running outside allows you to escape from the everyday, and experience life in the moment. By being in tune with your body and your surroundings, you push your troubles to one side and clear your mind.
Whether it is your first trail run or your 100th, you will find it a meditative experience that will bring positive benefits to your life.
Join a Group or Trail Race
If you enjoy running with others, joining local running groups, or even your first trail race, is a fun experience. By meeting like-minded people, you will be able to get tips and advice, as well as make new friends.
Trail running races give you extra motivation when training, as you have a goal to aim for. And don’t worry… you don’t need to be super fit to take part – many running events are open to all ages and abilities.
Your Trail Running Experience
Trail running is fun, and much less repetitive than road running. It is a great way to get some exercise while enjoying the great outdoors and some fantastic scenery along the way. It is a running experience unlike any other, so take your time and enjoy it!
Trail running for beginners may seem daunting at first, but after a few runs you may find it surprisingly addictive. Ready to start trail running? Find a trail near you, start running, and see where it takes you!