Trail Running: The Ups & The Downs, Literally
Tired of your usual running schedule, races, and routes? If so, trail running can be just what you're looking for as a means to discover new avenues and broaden your horizons. On the trails, you can disregard pace and mileage and put more emphasis on the process than the final destination.
Whether you're a total beginner or a seasoned road runner wishing to switch to trail running, this book will assist you in beginning your adventure.
What is Trail Running?
A well-liked summertime activity is trail running. Contrary to common perception, trail running is not just possible in mountainous areas. In reality, trail running is possible everywhere. When you are not on a surfaced, paved, sealed, or asphalt road, it is referred to as a "trail run." Running on trails involves a lot of outside, fresh air activity.
Trail running is possible everywhere.
While standardized measurements like distance, running pace, or heart rate are typically the focus when running on the road or paved trails, the experience itself takes center stage when running on trails. The terrain and obstacles are continuously shifting; at first, you're on grass, then you're on rocks, occasionally you're over roots, and in between, it could move up and then down. Your body and soul are alerted and challenged during hiking.
Often, trail running is little more than running. On steep ascents, though, you can alternate between jogging and walking when doing athletic trail running events. The objective is the journey, as the saying goes. Longer expeditions are feasible since off-road running is faster than hiking. You may easily spend the entire day trail running if you have the right gear, such as trail running shoes, performance clothing, and a pack. Of course, it can let loose at any time, so bring supplies and a raincoat just in case.
Both the body and the psyche benefit from trail running. While the varied terrain will test your physical stamina, you won't have any distractions and will be surrounded by the calming beauty of nature (unless you choose to put on your favorite running podcast).
Running a marathon of the same routes over and over might become tedious, but trail running can help you rediscover your enthusiasm for the sport.
These are a few advantages of trail running for the body and the mind.
Benefits for the Body
From a physical perspective, the majority of trails' soft surfaces are healthier for your joints because they help to absorb part of the shock.
The paths will test your ability to adapt, requiring you to alter your gait and the length of your steps to adapt to the surface. There are several obstacles to traveling over and around. In this regard, trail running races and trails can be a terrific approach to improving balance and developing strength in previously untrained muscle regions.
You can also lessen or perhaps avoid some of the usual running-related injuries that result from hitting the pavement repeatedly if you maintain a moderate jogging pace. Running on trails will put greater demands on your body because of the steep inclines, drops, switchbacks, and high altitude.
Benefits for the Mind
The benefits of the forest on the soul have long been understood and documented. Outside, anxiety and stress are easier to release than within.
Again and again, studies show that being in the woods is good for your brain and cognitive processes; the picturesque surroundings don't hurt either.
In a setting that renews your mind and soul, you may merely concentrate on putting one foot in front of the other on the trails.
Trail running can have a very different mentality from road running:
Running enthusiasts frequently adopt a more laid-back, easygoing attitude to counterbalance the intense competition of road running.
Trail running is viewed as a more contemplative style of exercise that allows one to physically and spiritually connect with nature.
Once you leave the stress of the city behind you, trail running can be an opportunity for you to let go of numbers and targets and make it more about creating your zen moments.
Step One: The Right Trail Running Shoes
The main piece of equipment for trail runners is their shoes. You can get by with your road running shoes if your first trail run is on a calm gravel road, but as soon as you meet roots, pebbles, and slick mud, you'll understand the necessity of having trail running shoes.
What distinguishes trail running shoes? Trail running footwear prioritizes traction, foot protection, and stability and is typically heavier than road running footwear. Think of the differences between the tires on a road bike and a mountain bike for an effective analogy. You may discover a variety of trail running clubs off-running shoes in this category that are appropriate for everything from easy, groomed paths to extremely tricky, unpredictable terrain.
Also, you have the option of wearing maximalist shoes with loads of padding to lessen the strain on joints and tiredness on long mileage days or more minimalist shoes that offer you a better sense of the trail and your biomechanics.
Traditional, maximalist, and minimalist fashions are all men's trail running shoes intended to provide more traction than road running footwear.
Step Two: Gearing Up
The appeal of trail running is that it doesn't require a ton of equipment. Put on some shorts and a T-shirt, lace up your running shoes, and step out the door to go for a quick, short trail run. Having said that, there are a few gear considerations that can make your run more comfortable and pleasurable, particularly when you start tackling longer distances and tougher terrain.
For all but the shortest runs, water is a necessity. Hydration packs, hydration vests, handheld water bottles, and waist packs with water bottles are your water-carrying alternatives.
You'll probably be alright with a handheld water bottle or a tiny waist pack if you go for a shorter run. You'll have space to put your house key, some cash, and an energy bar or gel in addition to carrying enough water for the run.
Consider using a bigger waist pack, a running hydration vest, or a running hydration pack for longer runs. They provide more space for storing essentials like extra clothing, food, first-aid supplies, navigational aids, and any other items and necessities for a half-day or full-day expedition. While purchasing a hydration pack, seek a running-specific type with a narrow design that allows you to swing your arms freely.
For runs lasting less than an hour, you may not need to bring more than an energy gel or two, but if you are out for a few hours or more you’ll want to have a selection of energy items such as bars, gels, and chews.
Finding what foods sit well in your tummy during a run takes some experimenting. In general, you should stick to straightforward energy snacks like gels or chews for shorter, more intense runs. If you get into running longer distances, such as ultramarathons, you may find that heartier snacks like bars, almonds, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and other “real” foods sit OK because you're normally traveling at a slower speed.
Instead of cotton, which dries very slowly, your running clothing should be comprised of moisture-wicking merino wool or synthetic materials. And socks right shoes should be made of merino wool or synthetic materials. A lightweight rain shell or windbreaker is advised for chilly or rainy conditions.
It's a good idea to layer your clothing, especially for longer runs. You can control your comfort level with this strategy. For a lengthy hill climb, you might start cold but can remove clothes as you warm up and put them back on if you get cold during a break or if severe, wet weather ever comes in.
Think about how breathable your clothes are as well. Avoid wearing gear that provides an impenetrable barrier since trail running produces a lot of heat and perspiration. The best materials are lightweight knits, and shirts with zipped necks allow you to breathe. Although the majority of waterproof raincoats are breathable, when you're working very hard, they might still become wet and clammy inside. You'll probably feel more comfortable wearing quick-drying, breathable synthetic or wool layers or a soft-shell jacket than a fully waterproof one unless it's truly pouring down rain.
Are you a night runner? A headlamp is essential. Your camping headlamp could be adequate, but if you intend to run at night a lot, you'll need a light with a minimum output of roughly 200 lumens. To light up the night and be able to glance about while constantly keeping the flashlight pointed towards the trail, some trail runners prefer to carry a handheld flashlight in addition to a headlamp.
It can be useful to select a headlamp that allows you to change the beam's shape. When you need to see farther down the route, you can switch to the spot setting from the wide flood option, which provides good peripheral illumination.
There are a variety of watches available, from inexpensive sports watches that tell the time and have a stopwatch to high-end GPS watches that track speed and distance and may be used for navigation. Other possibilities include activity trackers that keep track of your steps. Several of these gadgets come equipped with heart rate monitors, which might help you work out more efficiently.
If you're running trails in a new region, remember to have navigational aids like a map, compass, and/or GPS device.
Sunscreen (SPF 30 or higher is advised), lip balm, a hat, and clothing with sun protection can all be used to protect yourself from the sun. Remember that fair-skinned people might develop skin damage from just 15 minutes in the midday sun.
You can probably use less sun protection or even none at all if you spend all of your time running under the shade of trees. Nonetheless, be sure you're ready if the trail leads to an exposed ridgeline or the summit of a mountain.
First Aid Kit
The length and location of your trail run have a big impact on the size of your first-aid kit. Many people don't carry anything at all for runs of an hour or less that aren't too far from civilization. Yet, if you’re headed out on rocky terrain or on an adventure that will take several hours or more, a simple first-aid kit might be essential if you have a fall. The essentials, including bandages, antibacterial ointment, and painkillers, are advised for treating minor wounds.
Consider packing an emergency shelter, an emergency head splint, an elastic wrap, water treatment tablets, and medical supplies for more serious injuries while going on a trail run in a remote area.
Moreover, ensure your kit contains supplies for addressing foot problems, such as blister bandages, sports tape, and moleskin.
Step Three: Choose a Trail
While planning your first expedition, it’s vital to know that trail running often takes longer than road running for the same distance. Start slowly and avoid committing to a distance that you're unprepared for because the tougher terrain and undulating trails will impede your pace and use muscles that you might not be used to using.
Local gravel roads and dirt trails: Many towns and cities have a local network of gravel roads and dirt trails that provide a wonderful introduction to trail running. Find local state or city parks or venture out on a quiet dirt road. These leisurely excursions are excellent for acclimating to the terrain and testing out new equipment.
Joining a local trail-running club is another option to find new paths. They are common in many towns, and they're a great way to discover new running routes and connect with knowledgeable trail runners who can offer advice.
Guidebooks and websites: When you’re ready for greater difficulty or to seek farther afield than your local trails, guidebooks and internet resources are very beneficial. They provide you with all the information you're likely to need, including information about the trail's features, distance, elevation gain, difficulty, and whether or not dogs are permitted. Websites may also feature current trip reports that may give you an idea of what the trip will truly be like at the time you plan to run it. Don't restrict yourself to resources simply for trail running. Several websites and guidebooks for hiking or backpacking provide details that can be helpful when organizing a trail run.
Topo maps: If you are familiar with the area you wish to visit and can read a topo map, you may be able to choose your course based on the information provided. Maps can quickly become outdated, so it's still generally a good idea to cross-reference your pick with a guidebook or website that might have more up-to-date information about the path.
Step Four: Improve Your Technique
You encounter distinct difficulties on trails than on concrete surfaces because of the uneven terrain. Typical barriers include rocks, logs, and roots. You can navigate this type of terrain by improving your trail running style.
Simple Trail Running Methods:
Stride quickly, especially as compared to running on the road. To keep your balance over uneven ground, keep your feet firmly planted at all times. Don't go too far.
Maintain a downward gaze while searching the trail 10 to 15 feet in front of you for obstructions. Don't fixate on your feet, please.
Make an arm swing. You can maintain your balance and relax your core by doing this.
Several challenges lie ahead. Choose the path that is the safest to travel on, like a goat.
Shorten your step even more when the ground slopes. Continually take tiny, frequent steps to keep your cadence.
Maintain a straight back. Avoid the urge to lean forward when climbing hills because doing so can make it harder for you to breathe deeply. Avoid leaning back while going downhill since this might put a strain on your body and cause damage.
Very steep? It's acceptable to walk. Bonus: By staying off the steep routes, you reduce erosion.