Trail running is a great way to enjoy the changing leaves, crisp air and great outdoors this spring. It’s also a little different from road running, requiring a different mindset, different muscles and a bit more time. Here are seven tips from Team ECRP to help your trail running program get started in the right direction.
Accessorize. Make sure you’re prepared for a trail running workout with trail shoes, sunblock, a hat, sunglasses and bug spray. You can also check out running gaiters. These fashion accessories help keep your ankles and feet safe from stones, sticks and other trail debris while you’re out enjoying nature.
Work on your core. Running on uneven ground challenges your balance. The muscles of your core, abs, obliques, lower back, are what help you stay on your feet. The stronger they are, the more stable you’ll be and that means less likelihood of injury. Practice balance and core strengthening exercises regularly to help your trail running performance.
Leave extra time. You’ll be looking for the path of least resistance, rather than the shortest route from Point A to Point B on the trails. That might mean switchbacks or taking the long way around. Run for time, rather than distance until you’re familiar with different paths and the difficulties they each ask you to face.
Start slowly. Trails are different than roads or treadmills. They’re uneven, inconsistent and tougher on ankles and feet. Adjust to trail running with shorter runs than you’d do on the road and build up until you feel 100% comfortable.
Keep going slowly. With dirt paths, roots to watch out for and lots of other potential obstacles, trail running requires more effort then road running. Slow down and run by effort rather than pace, even if it means walking up hills in the beginning.
Stay safe. Consider head lamps, pepper spray and reflective gear. Always be sure to take an ID, tell someone where you’re going and when to expect you back. If you can, take your cell phone or a map and be aware of what’s going on around you at all times. Knowing the rules of the trail, such as yielding to downhill runners, equestrians and cyclists as well as staying on marked trails and running through, not around, puddles will all help you get home safely.
Bring fluids. Trail running can be unpredictable. Mud, rain, snow and streams all have the potential to make your run a little more hazardous, making the time it takes you to finish hard to determine. The last thing you want to do is run out of water, so wear or stash it. If your route crosses parking lots or picnic areas drop a water bottle off before you start. You can also use handheld water bottles, mini-bottle waist belts or a hydration pack to make sure you don’t get thirsty.
Use these tips to kick off spring with successful trail running.