Are you thinking about starting trail running? As you might already know, it’s very different from running on the road so I have put together these trail running tips for beginners to get you started.
Why Start Trail Running?
There are many reasons why you might want to start trail running, but mainly it gives you the opportunity to get outside and start exploring the wonderful countryside that is on offer wherever you live.
Plus, let’s be honest, running on the pavement isn’t exactly exciting is it. I can’t think of anything more boring – which is why I have never even run a road marathon in my life.
But of course, there are also great benefits to running on the trails.
- There is less stress on your body. Compared to road running on a constant solid surface, the trails are varied and often softer to run on.
- As surfaces are more varied, you will become a more well rounded and stronger runner when out on the trails.
As I said previously, trail running is different and there are many things to consider when going off on your next adventure. So here are my top tips for trail running as a beginner.
Pick the Right Shoes
When you are starting out I wouldn’t suggest buying all the gear that can be used on a trail run. There isn’t much point in spending $100’s on gear until you are hooked and plan to spend more time out there or are entering races.
However, I do think the right shoes are essential from the off. Trail running shoes have a better grip and are built to protect your feet much better than road shoes. It’s better to invest rather than risk injury through poor shoes.
Look Where You Are Going
This might sound obvious, but it’s essential. When you are running on the nice flat tarmac it’s easy to get carried away with yourself and lose concentration. Do this on the trails and you might come unstuck.
On most trails, there will be loose debris, stones, rocks, roots, etc. Lose concentration and you could be in for a painful fall. Always look ahead at the terrain and assess your next steps to avoid any surprises with your footing.
Stop And Take It All In
When running on the trails you are likely to come across some amazing views. Take so time to stop and see how beautiful our world is. If you have a phone with a camera then why not stop and take a few pics. I have to admit, I do it all the time.
I always like to take a photo or two when I’m running new locations. It’s like my trail running scrapbook of wonderful places.
Run By Time
It doesn’t matter who you are, running on trails takes longer than running on the roads. It’s wise to be mindful of this when you are out. If your planning to run 10 miles just understand that it will take longer on the trails. For some just starting out, it might be better to decide you are going to run for an hour rather than a distance.
Once you understand the pace and what the trails are like then do the distance or stick with the time.
This is a no brainer. Whenever you are out you need to keep yourself hydrated. You never know how long you might be out on a run. The weather can affect your day especially if it’s hot so you need to keep those fluids topped up.
Either carry a bottle or consider a hydration pack for your longer outings of longer than two hours. The last thing you want to do is find yourself in trouble because you didn’t bring a drink.
Tell Someone Where You Are Going
This might seem a bit silly to some but seriously it’s not. I always tell my wife where I am running and how long I’m expecting to be. Not because she wants to know my every move, but if I was to have an accident and didn’t return home when expected, she at least knows where I was running. If it needs to be reported then people know where I am.
You can also get apps on your phone that show your location as far as I am aware.
Carry A First Aid Kit
Probably for the longer runs but consider a small first aid kit. You never know when you may need a plaster or other kit. On a long race, it’s worth having something that can deal with blisters or chafing. Also, on some races, you have to have a small first aid kit as part of the mandatory kit list.
Respect The Trails & Follow The Rules
Always be mindful of walkers, runners, cyclists, dogs, and even horse riders. Be courteous to others and be friendly as well. Stay on the marked trails and stick to the signs.
Above all else, DO NOT litter on the trails. We live in a beautiful and wonderful world so let’s keep it that way.
One of the biggest issues that race organizers have is the mess that is left behind when a trail race is over. I have seen races cancelled for future events because people didn’t respect the environment. Keep your litter on you until you find a suitable bin to put it in.
Listen To Your Body
If you haven’t run on trails before then your body is going to feel it. Running the trails is so much harder than on the roads and you will be using muscles you didn’t realize you had.
You will be going up and down hills, ankles will be rolling over some rough ground and you will be using your upper body and core to keep your balance and stability. Your body will feel this so make sure you rest and don’t go off doing too many runs straight away.
Do Some Strength Work
As trail running involves new muscles and exertions, it’s worth considering some strength training activity once or twice a week for 20 to 30 minutes.
Try some lunges, squats, deadlifts, push-ups and core exercises. Get yourself stronger and you will notice the benefit on the longer trail runs believe me. You want strong legs for those hills.
Walk The Steep Hills
You don’t need to be a hero on the hills believe me. It’s better to walk at pace and conserve energy than to try and run and tire yourself out. Even the best runners walk some of the hills.
When I ran the Snowdonia trail marathon I walked the steep hills. Other people were running them. However, I was walking almost as fast as they were trying to run but I was conserving energy. When we got to the top I would start to run, they were tired out. Guess who finished the race first?
There are no rules out on the trails that say you have to run hills. Use your head, save your energy for running downhill and on the flat areas.
No Trail Is The Same
This is a good thing right. No matter the trail, it will always be different than the last. The terrain, the views, the difficulty.
This is why running the trails is so much better than being on the road. You can never get the same feeling as you do when you are out in nature just enjoying your run and surroundings.
Work On Your Running Technique
As I have stated multiple times in this post, running trails are different from the roads. This will also mean you need to adjust your running technique a little due to the varied surfaces.
Ideally, you should shorten your stride and keep yourself under control and balanced. Also, keep scanning the trail for obstacles – as I said before, there are plenty of trip hazards so you need to assess your foot placement before you actually do it.
Also, swing your arms as this will help to relax you whilst you are running. You don’t want to be rigid on some of the terrains. Relax and go with the flow.
Look After Your Health
If you are going to be out there for a period of time on a warm sunny day then make sure you have sun cream, a hat and probably sunglasses. You need to ensure you are protecting yourself. It can be quite surprising how quickly you can get burnt and really feel the heat when you are up and down hills for a few hours. Always better to be safe than sorry.
For me, there is nothing better than getting myself out on the trails for a few hours and just enjoying what our world has to offer. It is like no other feeling for me as it gives me time to think and really relax whilst taking in some breathtaking views.
If you ever do a trail race you will also come to understand just what a great community of trail runners there is. It cannot be compared to running a road race that’s for sure.
Let me know in the comments if you have any tips that weren’t mentioned in the post. I would really love to hear from you.
Until then, happy trails.
All the best,
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