Trail Running 101
Joe Fleming provides an overview of and advice on Trail Running.
Have you caught the trail running bug? You are not alone. Trail running continues to grow in popularity across the globe, especially among ultra runners. If you are thinking about giving trail running a go, do not miss this quick guide.
Benefits of Trail Running
Like road running, trail running provides a highly effective workout that helps to keep your heart, lungs, and cardiovascular system strong. Trail running goes beyond the endurance aspects, however, with positive benefits including:
Common Trail Running Injuries
5 Things to Know Before You Start Trail Running
If you are ready to log some running miles out on the trail, do not forget these important tips:
Start slow - it is a fact that you will run slower on a trail than you will on the road. Why? Well for one, there is much more stuff in your way, including natural debris and landmarks like rocks, tree roots, leaves, and fallen tree limbs. Add to that the difference in traction between an often slick trail and a dry, paved road, and speed will play a significant role in your safety.
While beginners should not expect to match their road running speed on the trail, they can still get just as an effective workout. Experts recommend setting time goals instead of mileage goals when starting so you can run the same amount of time as you used to, even if it is less distance. Maintaining your intensity and developing the agility and coordination skill-set trail running demands will gradually improve your running efficiency.
Update your form - running off-road may require you to update your running form. You will naturally notice your body activating more muscle groups over time as you traverse hills and varying terrains, however, you will also want to proactively practice lifting your feet higher to better fly over trail debris and circumvent the inevitable slips, falls, and tumbles that will occur.
You will also want to invest in a good pair of running shoes designed specifically for trail running. Trail running shoes often feature a minimized heel that keeps your foot lower to the ground (to reduce ankle rolling) as well as the magnified tread on the soles for better gripping. Some even come with "rock plates" in the forefoot that helps protect against rock bruising.
Be prepared to walk - walking, especially up steep inclines, will be a standard fixture of any trail run and it does not mean your inadequate, slow, or weak. Trails are not built for the easiest ascent and descent, but rather they are constructed to flow within their natural environment seamlessly. This might mean you end up running a trail that extends up and over a giant boulder or fallen tree. When in doubt, slow your run to a "power hike" and boost your overall efficiency while reducing your risk for injury.
Practice good trail etiquette - just like on the road, you are not the only one using a trail. You might pass cyclists on your trail run as well as hikers, other runners, and of course, animals in their natural habitat. In addition to learning how to safely follow trail markers to avoid getting lost, learn best practices for sharing trails with others and always remember to leave with everything you brought in including food wrappers, bottles, clothing, etc.
Be smart about safety - out on the trail you are somewhat removed from civilization and therefore want to take precautions to keep yourself safe. While your chances of encountering dangerous animals or environmental hazards are slim, you should still know what to do in those instances. You should also always check local forecasts before heading outdoors, carry extra layers of clothing if it is cold out, tell someone where you are running and when you should be back, and carry a map if you do not know the route you are taking well.
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About the Author
Joe Fleming is the President at ViveHealth.com. Passionate about healthy lifestyles and living a full life, he enjoys sharing and expressing these interests through his writing. To inspire others and fight ageism, Joe writes to help people of all backgrounds and ages overcome life's challenges. His work ranges from articles on wellness, holistic health, and ageing to social narratives, motivational pieces, and news stories. For Joe, helping others is vital.