Whether you run in the summer, or live in a humid climate, hitting the hiking trails as a "trail runner" is becoming increasingly popular. No longer are hiking routes limited to hikers as many athletes and fitness professionals are turning to the them for the ultimate workout, and will instead run these trails, pushing their cardio and stamina limits to the max.
For those looking to begin trail running, there are many things to consider. This article will look at the Top 5 Tips for starting your trail running journey.
1. Proper Footwear
Unlike a "traditional runner" who will use a street, sidewalk or track, you'll want a shoe that offers additional stability in both the ankle and the sole. Trail running and street running are two very different things. With no real obstacles to contend with, shoe choice can be more varied and stress important for traditional runners compared with those leaving the tarmac.
Often times, traditional runners will opt for lightweight, flexible, and soft soled shoes. As you hit the trail however, you'll quickly find that tree roots, rocks, and slippery sections which will impact your shoe selection. Choosing a shoe that has more a stable sole will help protect your foot against the uneven ground, while choosing one with proper ankle support to keep your ankle from twisting or rolling as you maneuver the more challenging terrain.
2. Keep it Light
Trail running is your opportunity to bare it all - meaning the less clothes, the better. Leave the bulky cargo shorts and jogging pants at home. Opt for shorts that are light and free flowing. Choose shirts like tank-tops or lightweight t-shirts made from moisture wicking materials like nylon or polyester.
Pro Tip: Remember, you are climbing a mountain on your run and may find increased chaffing and rub points. Be sure to wear clothing that minimizes these pain points, but still provides the proper coverage for your needs and your comfort level.
3. Protect Yourself
With less clothes on, you'll want to protect yourself against the sun wherever possible. Consider using sun protection like sun screen, sun glasses, and athletic hats to shade the most exposed areas.
In addition to these sun protection options, always ensure that you have a bottle or two of water. Hydrating on the trail is extremely important.
Pro Tip: Many runners opt for special running belts or vests that holds several small water bottles. These allow you to keep your hands free while on the trail. Consider a product like this for when you take your trail running to the next level.
4. Start and End Slowly
Trail running is a marathon, not a sprint. Be sure to start and end your run slowly. You'll want to properly warm up and cool down to ensure there are no injuries. Remember, unlike a traditional run, you'll be exerting considerably more energy climbing up and down the mountain side.
Many beginner trail runners will use a variation of running and walking, typically 1 minute jogging / running and 3-5 minutes walking. As you progress on your trail running journey, you'll find that you can run for longer stretches.
As a general rule, be sure to consider the trail conditions. As you climb up, and come back down steeper sections of the trail, be sure to slow down to reduce the likelihood of a slip and fall. Trail running can often be more dangerous than traditional hiking or running (with the addition of speed), so always be assessing your surroundings to ensure your safety.
5. Run Early in the Day, and with Friends
To avoid battling the mid summer's heat, it's a "best practice" to run first thing in the morning. This tactic allows you to take advantage of the untapped morning energy, the cool temperatures, and allows the rest of the day to be focused on work, followed by relaxation.
In contrast, some runners prefer to train during the evenings after work. If you choose this option, be mindful of the sunset times and the (possible) drop in temperatures. You don't want to find yourself returning cold and in the dark.
When possible, try and run with a partner or a group. Running groups are a great way to encourage motivation, accountability, and a secondary safety component to your trail running journey. Feeding off the energy of others will help propel your training, and should an injury occur, you'll have the help of another to get back down the mountain or mind help on your behalf.