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5 Tips for Trail Running Beginners

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Cain Leathers

5 Tips for Trail Running Beginners as Seen in Cain's Weekly Rundown on 1/30/2023

Cain Leathers
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Cain Leathers

Trail running has been one of the fastest-growing sports over the last few decades. Have you been wanting to get into trail running more?

Here are some tips for you!

1. Soak in your surroundings.

Trail running can be incredibly soothing for the soul, almost meditative. Running through woods, over streams, around boulders and fallen trees, up to the highest peaks and the lowest valleys, often causes one to fall in a trance and forget their stresses of the outside world. Appreciating the beauty around you, the stillness of your surroundings, the freshness of the air, the trickling of a nearby stream, especially at the start of your trail running journey can really enhance the overall experience, and what you take away from it. In the end, you gain so much more than physical fitness.

2. Find a trail system and research the route ahead of your run.

There are many options for trail running everywhere throughout the world. While your mind might immediately think of mountains for trail running, there are plenty of trails within forests, near the coasts, in suburbs surrounding cities, and beyond. There’s probably one close to you that you may not have even known about!

Once you find a trail that piques your interest, be sure to also do a little research on it ahead of time for safety. Print out a map and take it with you on a run, download the route onto your watch or phone in case you lose signal, or tell someone exactly which trail(s) you plan to run on. This way you are less likely to get lost, and if you do, others know where they may be able to find you if something unexpected happens.

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3. Wear the proper gear.

While you can absolutely wear road running shoes out on the trails, investing in a solid pair of trail-specific running shoes will pay off in the long run. Trail shoes are designed for off-road running with lugs on the outsole for additional traction on slippery surfaces, alongside features like toe guards, reinforced uppers, water-resistant materials, and rock plates for added protection and shoe durability. When you’re out on the trails, be sure to pack hydration and nutrition as well. You never know how long you’re going to be out there, and in the event, you get lost, injured or overexert your energy, it’s a good idea to be prepared to replenish some of your depleted energy. Hydration packs allow you to carry water on your back, while also equipping you with additional pockets for clothing/snack storage. If you’re looking to start running on a very technical trail, or a trail system with lots of elevation change, trekking poles may also be a worthy investment.

4. Know that every trail run will be different than the last.

One of the most exciting aspects of trail running is that no two runs will ever be the same. Even running on the same trail repeatedly can bring a unique experience each time. Trees change colors, flowers bloom, weather shifts, rocks, leaves, and dirt on the ground move ever-so-slightly and change shape. Switching up your routine with new trails will create even more unique experiences, given that each trail has its own unique list of differences that will keep your senses heightened.

Every run on a trail is an entirely unique experience because every single trail is different. While some trails are flat, dirt paths that gently wind through a park, most are rolling routes with a variety of unique obstacles and features, such as roots, rocks, gravel, stream crossings, steep climbs and fast descents.

5. Take it slow.

Your fitness, your gear, your knowledge of the terrain and the weather will all be factors on how far and how fast you’re able to run. It’s important to note that an hour of running on the trails is commonly more difficult than an hour on the road or sidewalk, therefore you shouldn’t expect to run nearly the same pace or mileage. If you, on average, run a 10:00-minute mile pace on the road, expect to be closer to 11:30-minute mile on the trails. Perhaps a bit slower if there are hills and elevation as contributing factors.

Try starting out with some shorter, slower runs, to allow your body to acclimate to the terrain change and test your fitness level. If you try to go out for a long a longer run on the trails, maybe even multiple hours, ensure you are properly equipped to refuel your body for the projected calorie and fluid loss over several hours.

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5 Tips for Trail Running Beginners as Seen in Cain's Weekly Rundown on 1/30/2023