Trail Running for Beginners – Tips to Transition to Off-Road Running
Off-road running can be the best therapy for the busy city dweller looking to gain fitness, get outside and enjoy nature while scratching that exploration itch that we all get while working our everyday jobs. Most of us will instinctively run along the same streets every time and barely ever wander off the beaten path of a local trail, but hopefully that’s all about to change in this guide to trail running for beginners.
Trail runs offer so much more than standard street running. Trail running keeps the mind scanning, searching, and exploring the surroundings. As you run through the trails you’re constantly adjusting to the changing terrain and each step is critical to your success, especially if you want to take up off-road running.
Thanks to the added variety of the track, off-road running is incredibly fun and often you'll have covered a huge distance before you even realize it. It certainly beats running the same old streets every day! But before you get out there, here's a few trail running tips for beginners to help you make the transition from road to trail healthy, fun and injury free.
1. Get trail running shoes that fit and make sure they’re suitable for the trail you’re running on
If you’re running on muddy trails, then you’ll need shoes with big lugs on the sole, to stop you from slipping. Equally, if you’re running on dry trails, then you’ll want a lower profile shoe, that grips on rock and dirt tracks. Almost as important as the type of trail running shoe is making sure you get it in the right size. Trail running inevitably involves climbing and descending - so if you want to avoid blisters, make sure your toes aren't banging into the front of your shoes.
2. Repeat after me: “Roots and Rocks are REAL and they can make me roll!”
Yup, you’ll have to keep your eyes scanning and your senses on full alert when you incorporate trail running into your training. Always pay attention, because the second you let your mind wander and zone out – BOOM - you’ll be rolling on the ground. Roots have a special way of reaching up and grabbing you while you're not paying attention, so stay on full alert.
3. Shorten your stride and speed up your cadence for off-road running!
A wise runner once said “Dustin, I didn’t learn to truly run until I ran the trail” and he was right. Trail running will naturally force you to shorten your stride and speed up your cadence. There's a natural process to trail running, and it will eventually overtake your resistance. Don’t fight it: shorter strides increase stability and balance and also give you a better gearing system for climbing and descending.
4. Stop tracking miles and listen to your body. Enjoy nature and regain your love of running!
Off-road running is just... different. Road and trail are pretty far removed from each other. I love both in different ways, but for me the trail wins every time. Leave your headphones at home, take off the watch, ditch the phone, and let your inner 'Jedi' use the trail running force. Find a pleasant pace that ensures you enjoy your time outdoors and then keep going for as long as you like.
Trail running will change you for the better, and when you get home from a run you’ll feel the benefit of the trail's nature therapy. Just ensure that you always leave the trail as if you never went there. Haul your trash out, keep trail damage to a minimum, respect the trail rules, and ensure we can all keep enjoying them forever.
Cheers, Alpha Dustin