If you are new to trail running or just thinking about trying it out then congratulations – you made a great choice.
In this post, I want to share with you some beginner tips on how to start trail running so that you are fully prepared.
As easy and exciting as trail running sounds, it’s important to understand what you are letting yourself in for.
Stepping onto the trails can be a bit scary, to begin with, but don’t worry. I’m here to give you some suggestions on how to get yourself started so you can enjoy yourself safely.
Buy the Right Running Shoes
Of any of the gear you might purchase for trail running I would say that the right trail shoes are important.
Whilst your standard road shoes might seem they are right for the job, don’t be fooled.
Trail running shoes have additional features that road shoes don’t.
- The grip is different to suit the terrain
- There is a toe guard (you will be thankful for this)
- They will generally have better foot and ankle support.
Purchase the wrong shoe and you might find yourself twisting an ankle or worse.
For more info on trail running shoes you can check out the following reviews:
Find the Right Trail to Start
It’s so easy right off the bat to go find the nearest trail and start running.
However, there are things you should consider first. Trail running will require more effort from your body so it’s important you don’t overdo it, to begin with.
Pick a tough technical trail too early and you could be lining yourself up for injury and we don’t want that.
Instead, do your research on some local trails that you can do. As a beginner, try some short flat trails so your body can get used to running this way.
As you become more competent you can then start to progress to something a bit more hilly and technical.
Remember, slow and steady wins the race.
Pay Attention to the Trail
This might sound obvious but you need to watch the trail when you are running. It’s so easy to lose concentration and trip over.
Remember, depending on the type of trail you are running, there will be rocks, roots and all manner of things potentially sticking up out of the ground.
I have lost count the number of times I have tripped and stumbled on something when I stopped concentrating. Normally as I start to get tired.
I find that the best thing for me to do is to look at the ground about 10 feet in front of you so you can assess the potential obstacles.
This will generally give your brain plenty of time to assess and react. It takes a little practice, but give it a go. Eventually, it will become a natural thing to do.
A lot better than falling over and hurting yourself that’s for sure.
If you plan to be out on the trails for any length of time you need to ensure you are hydrated and are drinking regularly.
Remember, your not out on the streets where there may be the option to stop and refuel.
When you are out on the trail, the last thing you want is to find yourself caught out and dehydrated.
Whatever you do, wherever you are, make sure you have enough fluids for the duration of your workout.
Recommended Products: The Best Hydration Packs
Whether you are running on a road or a trail, safety is a hugely important factor.
Now, with trail running there are different concerns than on the road. Start off by letting someone know where you are going and roughly how long you will be. It may seem over the top, but I always let my wife know where and how long when I’m going out.
Another thing to consider is a rain jacket just in case. There is nothing worse than being out on a trail and getting caught out by the weather. My go-to jacket is the OMM Kamleika which is by far the best bit of waterproof kit I have ever purchased.
I would also always ensure I take a phone with me. Not only because you can contact someone if required but you can bring up maps etc. if you end up lost.
Depending on how long you will be out on the trails will depend on whether you need to take some form of nutrition.
For me, anything up to 2 hours and I’m good with liquids and anything longer I will take some food.
Personally, I avoid gels like the plague and will only eat vegan or plant-based food.
So I want to give you a top tip for nutrition on the run:
Use Tailwind as a supplement to your hydration and nutrition. It’s the best running drink available today and will keep you both hydrated and keep your calorie intake up whilst out on your longer runs.
I also like to take some Medjool dates out for that extra bit of energy when I need it.
Don’t complicate things, keep it simple and you will have everything you need with these two items.
Time Not Distance
A very common error most people make when making the transition from road to the trail is that they think they can run at the same pace.
Don’t do it!
Most trails are undulating or hilly and certainly different to tarmac. So to try and run at the same pace will be a poor choice.
The key thing with trail running is to slow it down, especially if you are a beginner. There are many obstacles on a trail so don’t spoil it by trying to go all out and injure yourself.
If you look at a lot of trail running plans you will probably notice that a lot of them set times and not distances – there is a good reason for that.
This is another area where people tend to try and do too much. If you can try to walk up the steep hills.
I have been on many a trail race where other runners are trying to run up the hills. They often make it too.
Then 5 minutes later I breeze past them because they are shattered with all the energy expelled just getting up the thing.
Instead, try to power walk up the hill, keeping a constant pace and pump your arms whilst you do it.
You will conserve a lot of energy this way and will be ready to continue running when you reach the top.
However, if you are specifically training for an event, then running up hills as part of your training is worth doing – just don’t go mad at the event or race itself.
Above everything else, just get yourself out there and have fun. Being out on the trails and in nature is one of the most wonderful things to do.
I love entering races, but I think I love the training more – especially when I get out onto a fantastic trail. It gives me so much time to think and embrace the beauty around us.
With all the stresses in our lives, this is the chance to get away from it all and just enjoy it for a few hours.
These are just some basic tips on how to start trail running. At the end of the day, the purpose is to enjoy it and not make it a slog.
Just make sure you are sensible and it will be all the more enjoyable for you.
All the best and happy trails,