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Trail Running Tips to Get Started

How to get off the road and hit the roots, trails and logs

The popularity of rail running is increasing for good reason. It’s revitalising to be exercising outdoors minus the sounds of traffic and day-to-day life. On the trails you’ll find fresh air, birdsong and spectacular colour. But before you get your double-dose of fitness and nature combined, be sure to have some idea of what you’re getting in to. Here are 10 trail running tips to get your moving in the right direction.
 

  1. Safety first: Ideally, run with others and tell someone where you are going and which trail. Consider taking a cell phone with you. If possible, take a trail map and ID with you, and keep track of where you are along the trail as you go. If you’re run alone, consider downloading a safety app for your phone, and always be mindful of what’s going on around you.

 
  1. Every trail is unique: Some are well groomed and wide, others are "single-track" trails with obstacles, such as tree roots, rocks, sand, hills, mud, and more. Single-track trails tend to be more challenging. As a new trail runner, expect that no two runs will be the same.

 
  1. Understand trail etiquette: For safety, yield to other trail users including equestrian, hikers, mountain bikers. Uphill runners should yield to downhill runners. Stay on marked trails, leave no trace and no litter behind. And never leave fellow runners alone, especially if they are feeling tires or unwell.

 
  1. Keep your eyes on the trail: You don’t want to fall and hurt yourself, so avoid the temptation to look around while running and keep your eyes down. When you want to enjoy the sights, stop and walk. Ideally, aim to focus your eyes three to four feet ahead on the trail to create a suitable line of travel. This will keep you focused and in the moment and the more experienced you become the more you will begin to instinctively know where the best line is.

 
  1. Alter your running gait: Your stride is often a little different than on the roads because you will need to clear rocks, puddles, tree roots so be conscious of lifting your feet fractionally higher off the ground. Keep your elbows a little wider for added balance on more technical trails.

 
  1. Run by time, not distance: Because trails have such varying terrain, it’s a good idea to run by time rather than by covering a certain distance. Typically it takes longer to cover ground on the trails, and if it’s really hilly it may take much longer than you planned.

 
  1. Trail shoes and accessories: Spend a few bucks and invest in a pair of trail running shoes. They typically offer more ankle and arch support and the tread offers better traction on muddy, wet trails. They should fit snug in the heel but have room in the toe box to avoid blisters. Consider wearing sunglasses, a hat, sunscreen and bug spray.

 
  1. Carry fluids (and perhaps a snack too): You never really know how long you’ll be out on the trail so always bring fluids and maybe a light snack. There are several ways to carry fluids on the run, including handheld, multi-bottle waist belt, and hydration pack. Drinking from streams is generally not recommended.

 
  1. Rest and recovery: Trail running can take more out of you than you may think. Often trail running doesn’t leave your muscles quite as battered as road running because of the softer terrain underfoot, but be sure to allow time for adequate recovery, at least to begin with. Add frequency as you become more accustomed to trial running.

 
  1. Trail racing: If you’re planning to do a trail race, spend at least 50 percent of your run time on trails and the rest on roads. This is important because balancing the two will allow you to adapt to the new demands of the trail while maintaining the ability to run on harder surfaces without soreness. To begin with, run on groomed trails and progress to rugged trails once you are more confident.

 

Embrace the trail running challenge and enjoy the absolute highs that the sport can provide, but remember to always be cautious and practice safety first. Happy trails!

By: Kerry Hale

Looking for some great shades with a wide field of vision for trail running? Watch our review of Julbo's Venturi model:
 

 

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