These 10 simple tips will help you get started and find joy in the world of trail running!
1. Shoes. Go to a running store and get fitted for a trail shoe. Look for an aggressive tread stiffer sole, and a toe protector to help protect your feet against the impact of rocks and rugged terrain.
2. Other Gear. Be prepared and carry some form of hydration, whether it’s a handheld, a belt, or a pack. Choose a model that has a small zipper to store your keys and other small items. A few other handy items include tissue, a cellphone, an emergency contact card, and a few dollars and some change.
3. Stride and Pace. Shorten your stride to increase turnover, and lift your feet slightly higher to avoid falling on roots and rocks. Remember to slow your pace. With the challenges of trails, chances are you won’t be able to keep the same pace as on the road. Ease into it to find your comfort zone.
4. 45 degree rule. Keep your eyes on the trail. Take your eyes off, and I guarantee you a spectacular face-plant! At the same time, don’t look directly down at your feet. Keep your eyes on the ground about 5-10 feet ahead of you.
5. Tune in to nature. Move over Lady GaGa and Linkin Park. Leave the ear buds at home, and embrace the sweet, serene sounds of the wind rustling through the leaves and the soft crunch of the foliage and twigs beneath your feet. Not only will you be able to tune into nature, but you also need to be aware of passing runners on single-track trails and of potential animal and human danger.
6. Uphill/Downhill. Mastering hills takes practice. These simple tips will help you get going.
- Uphills. Increase your turnover by shortening your stride and focusing on the top of the hill, while scanning the ground in front of you. As you near the top, pick up your pace and barrel OVER the top to keep your momentum going.
- Downhills. To avoid trashing your quads as much as possible, lean forward just a tad and move slightly towards the balls of your feet, increasing your stride. To help stabilize yourself, spread your arms a bit away from your body. This approach takes practice, so keep at it.
7. Sidewinding. When approaching a steep, rugged downhill area, imagine yourself like the Sidewinder snake. Run in short zig-zags to avoid falling and to help maintain pace. Keep your arms spread out a bit for the stabilization factor.
8. Smile and say hello! To me, trail runners are the friendliest people on earth. Almost always, you’ll hear “Good morning” or “Hello” on the trail. There’s a sort of comradery amongst trail runners that you won’t find on the pavement. Feeling a bit out of breath? A simple smile or nod of acknowledgment will suffice. J
Above all, relax and enjoy yourself!