Trail Running Tips and Advice

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Ever since I started running again, running trails has become a hobby of sorts.  I just love getting out in the woods and letting loose.  There is something so unique about running free through dense forests, over creek beds, hurdling downed trees and even on rare occasions, running with the deer.  Its something every runner or walker should try.  So for today’s post, I just want to give a few of my tips that I have learned along the way.

1- START SLOWLY- As with all new training, start slow and easy.  Dont jump into your first trail run at a pace you would normally run on the roads or treadmill.  It’s totally different out there.  Trail running requires a lot of “gear” changes and accelerations and deceleration.  Thus, wearing down those muscle fibers a lot faster than normal.  A 4 miler on the trails at a 7:30 pace feels like a 4 miler at  6:30 pace on the road.  So take it easy and don’t get frustrated with slower times.  They’ll pick up as soon as you muscles adjust to the new environment.

2- Dress for Success- Clothing choice is key to a good workout of any type.  For me with running in the woods, you have to make sure you are comfortable.  There are no shortcuts to get back home in case of bad clothing choices.  Its more critical in winter and spring time than any other.  I like wearing arm warmers.  I use Pearl Izumi arm warmers. You can shed these if your arms over heat. Wear a small pack to stow items in, like gloves, hats, glasses.  You can even store food and water.  I use a small waist CamelBak.  Dont be scared to wear compression pants.  You may look like Peter Pan out there, but you will be dry and warm along your run.  I usually wear these anytime the temps are below 40 degrees.

3-Pay Attention- Learning your route and learning terrain are important to keeping from getting lost and staying injury free along the way.  I never look down when I run.  Look ahead a few steps and prepare yourself for anything and everything.  Remember, you’re in the woods…snakes, bees, spider webs, rocks, roots, mud, holes, logs, trees, briars, fox, coyotes, deer, bear, people, mountain bikers…you get the picture.  Learn to stutter step to avoid obstacles.  Glide over downed trees by lightly touching the log with one foot as you run over it.  Never EVER jump over logs.  Youre asking for an injury.  Your number one risk is stepping on damp or wet rocks and roots.  These guys are never forgiving.  You hit one and your down in a split second with a hip injury.  So learn your route and learn the terrain!

4- Practice Technique- I’m not gonna sit hear and tell you how to trail run like some other blogs or running sites will.  They’ll tell you to run upright and wear road shoes instead of trail shoes.  Just run the trails and feel it out.  You will not have the same run form that you have on the roads.  Your arms will flail around, your feet will stutter and your head will be bobbing and weaving.  The proper technique is your own technique.  The only thing I will suggest is that you learn to keep you center of gravity low.  It’s mostly important during downhill switchbacks or sections that have zig zags.  I lean forwards slightly and add an extra bend in my knees.  Try it and you’ll see that it helps.  Yes, you can wreck in trail running if you hit a switch back too fast.  So slow down, lower your gravity and accelerate out.

5- Be Aware of Rules and Regulations- If you run trails in parks or state or county owned property, be aware of special rules, regulations and laws.  Most parks close at sunset.  Even at sunset, you still have plenty of daylight.  However, you need to pack it up and head out.  Learn your local hunting schedules.  During these times, wear brighter clothing and make noise.  Clap or whistle as you run along.  Make hunters aware of your presence.  When a trail is closed, its closed.  Pick another route.  Learn the yielding laws.  Do bikers yield to runners, runners to bikers.  What should you do in case you approach someone on horseback?  Learn the rules.

Quick Tips

Never listen to music on single track running.  Listening while running fireroads is ok due to the ability for others to pass without you hearing them.

Fuel properly.  Eat properly before, during and after running.  I like to take GU and PowerBars with me on runs of 10 miles or more.

Bring ID.  I used to run with an old expired drivers license.  I now run with the Road ID.  Check them out.  It’s a must have for trail runners.

Check the weather.  Nothings worse than being in the middle of a 10 mile run and you get caught in a snow blizzard.  I speak from experience.

Double knot your shoes.  You never know, you could just trip up on a loose lace.


Was this post helpful?  Please leave a comment.  Happy Trails and be safe out there.

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