So you’re looking for a new running challenge or you are already an outdoor enthusiast and you’re looking for a different way to enjoy nature. Whichever the reason for taking interest in trail running, here are some tips for transitioning from the road to the trail.
Don’t worry about pace. With the varying terrain you will encounter on the trail, your pace will be slower than on the road or treadmill. Instead, run based on effort, which will likely mean that you will be moving slower when climbing uphill and faster on the flats and downhill. You can work on your speed later as you get more comfortable on the trail.
Different surface, different soreness. You may notice that different muscles are sore the day or two after your first few trail runs because different muscles have been used or are used differently than on the road. Trail running involves more lateral movements, running on uneven surfaces and more hills compared to running on other surfaces. Don’t be surprised if you have more soreness in your calves, feet, quads and hips.
Continuously scan the trail. Use your eyes to constantly look ahead at the trail, not just for upcoming turns, but any possible obstacles such as a fallen tree branch or creek crossing. But don’t look down with your entire head. Keep those muscles in your neck nice and loose.
Hills. Yes there will be hills. Don’t worry about having to sprint up them, run what you can and hike or power-hike if you need. Remember, what goes up must come down.
Downhill. You’ve made it up that hill, enjoyed the view at the top and now need to get back down. Take shorter, quicker strides when running downhill, keep your hips under your center of gravity and use your arms to balance. This will help keep you balanced and centered and you will be less likely to take a tumble on the trail.
Be your own aid station. Consider carrying hydration and fuel since access to such will be much more limited on the trail. You won’t be passing by many water fountains or any convenience stores as you would if you were running on the road.
Enjoy the view! Don’t forget to look around and take in the beauty around you. Stop at the top of the hill and look back at what you have accomplished and relish in the view.