Trail Runner recently posted a beginner’s guide to trail running. It’s a great article with a lot of helpful advice from some of the big names in trail running. Since some of us are starting to spend more time off-road, we wanted to share some of the advice from Trail Runner and include our own thoughts on each of their tips.
Get Off-Road: Pull up Google Maps and take a look at your surroundings. “Look for the green-colored areas indicating parks and public lands and then explore them.” Sounds like a no-brainer, but I was surprised at how many short trails were hidden in the communities around where I live. It’s easy to rely solely on municipal markers or signs, but some of the best trails can be right around the corner. Training can be repetitive at times, so get creative on those run routes.
Focus: “…[O]n trails, as soon as you look up to admire the beautiful views, bam, you might roll your ankle or face plant.” Yes, it’s happened plenty of times before and it will happen again. Crashing. Tripping. Falling. Part of the allure of trail running is the surroundings and the scenery. But I’ve gotten too caught up in my surroundings at times to watch my footing, and a random root snaps me back into focus rather abruptly. Pay attention to where you're going. Map a line of site or plan 10-20 steps in advance. Soak it all in, but be mindful of your surroundings.
Technique: “For running uphill: Employ a high cadence—frequent, quick steps—but a slower overall pace than on flat ground.” Running uphill on the road can be just as painful as running up a hill on the trail. But throw in roots, rocks and uneven ground and the urge to take longer strides becomes problematic. Quick steps have allowed me to be mindful of where I’m going, conserve some energy and focus on breathing and arm movement while going uphill. There is absolutely no shame in power walking up that 10% grade either!
Fuel: “For any run over 90 minutes, people should take in fuel every 20 to 30 minutes,” says Stephanie Howe. “It sounds like a lot, but most runners make the mistake of waiting too long to fuel. Once you start to feel tired, it’s too late.” I couldn't agree more. Not only is it easy to become distracted when you’re out in nature, but the miles don’t add up as quickly. If you are fueling up based on distance, you're setting yourself up for trouble. I have had to increase fueling on the trails simply because it takes me longer to cover the same distance.
Injury Prevention: “Do strength and “pre-hab” exercises: Strength and conditioning work are one of the most important keys to my health and success the past few years,” says Rob Krar. He says he has developed a twice-weekly circuit routine focusing on upper-leg, hip and core strength and flexibility. I don't like stretching – who does?! It’s hard to sit still for too long. But after some miles on the trail, I’ve noticed the need to increase my hip flexibility. I have had less injuries and less pain after spending more time stretching this area compared to my usual stretching (read non-existent) routine. In the end a few minutes of your time will pay dividends.
While there are many great running websites, Trail Running is a great resource for all levels of trail runners. Check out this article and a ton of other helpful tips over at www.trailrunner.com