Tips on how to take up Trail Running
If you want to go off-road running and fancy the harmony and somberness of the trails, rush up; it's about to get populous out there.
With the weather getting warmer, more runners are dumping the gym and heading outside for a run or hike.
The idolization of trail and off-road running is on the rise. But why are so many people beginning to head off the broken path? And should you consider substituting your roadies for some trail shoes before you take the plunge? Here are a few words of advice on how to take up and why you should get into trail running...
v Greenery & eye soothing landscapes - Running off road, in the forests, woods and mountains puts you in a spectacular surrounding with greater diversity. Research into sports psychology has shown that having this external stimulus can really help runners to relax and perform better, and separate studies have concluded that time spent outdoors works wonders for our mental health.
v You Discover Muscles You Never Knew You Had, Eureka! - Trails leave you with no choice but to use your body in a way that road running often doesn't. The asymmetrical surface involves your core and lateral stabilizing muscles.
v Spread the Load & think about your feet - With each foot step on a road or tarmac surface you're generally striking the same group of muscles with the same foot strike over and over again. Getting off road on mixed terrain surfaces will mean your gait and foot strike is slightly different each stride meaning you will spread the impact over a great range of muscles, reducing your risk of injury. On the trail, you need to be vigilant about foot placement more often and reciprocate to the terrain quickly which facilitates a stable core.
v Stay Wind Determined & Enjoy your Strength - By mixing firm tough trails, flat routes and hills, you help to ensure your body works at a much larger range of muscle groups, not just in your legs but also the stabilizing muscles in your core, feet and ankles. Simply put, striking the trails will leave you a stronger runner whether racing off road or on road.
v Every Trail is different and Unique - One of the many things I love about trail running is that every trail has its own unique path and test. There are groomed trails that are wide, limestone-based, and often even in surface, which make for a great introduction to running off the road. And then there are narrow "single-track" goat trails with a variety of obstacles, including tree roots, rocks, sand, hills, mud, and more. Single-track trails tend to be more challenging in nature and offer a charismatic running experience.
v Remember the Protocols of the Trail – You need to ensure that the trail can be used by other people such as equestrian, hikers, mountain bikers etc. Runners running uphill should yield to downhill runners. Follow the signs on the trail and stay on marked trails. Run through puddles or streams not around them (making the trail wider). Leave no trace or mark, and do not litter.
v Handling Technicality on Trails - A technical running terrain is one which has a lot of mixed patches and even sometimes navigation - this requires you to stay vigilant and alert as you might be hopping from rock to rock or watching out for steeper valley descents or tree roots. This alertness helps develop your sense of balance and movements as well as developing faster foot strike and leg turn over.
v Breathe Clean Fresh Air - Recent research has indicated that running in polluted environments can increase your risk of cardiovascular diseases. Whilst many runners don't have a choice day to day, anytime you can get out into the cleaner air of open forest trails, or even just in some of the big city parks your lungs will thank you.
v Transition slowly and gracefully - Give yourself time to build your off-road encounters. Frame your confidence and experience running on gently rolling trails and marked terrain routes. As you gauge more experience you can become more enthusiastic to target more technical routes or harder terrains for longer runs over mixed surfaces.
v Start Building a Mix Bag of Workouts - Just like running on tarmac, you can bring in variations to different workouts on the Trails. The prime concern is that you need to choose your terrain more smartly. A trail with many obstacles can improve your swiftness, and if you want to build strength, hike up a trail and run downhill to work your quads. On the flip side, for speed work, head to a spot that's relatively flat and clear—wading through a creek midway won't help you get your heart rate up.
v Photography at its Best! - On the trail, there's a lot to discover than when you're on the tarmac. One should carry a good camera to capture the nature and cherish memories. Would like to quote a phrase “Go fast enough to get there, but slow enough to see”
Most significantly, have a blast on the trails, but be careful! You know what they say about trail running - once you get on the dirt, you never want to get out of it! In conclusion, I would like to quote John Muir “Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt!”
As always, I look forward to your comments.