Spring is a time of renewal and growth, and one of the ways you can switch up your running is taking some time to run on the trails! Trail running is a great way to use different muscle groups and to take a break from hitting the pavement. Here are some things you need to know about trail running if you haven't hit the trails before:
Fitting for a comfortable trail shoe: Just like your road shoes, your trail shoes should be comfortable and should provide the same amount of room in the toes as your other running shoes. Why do you need a trail shoe? The outsole provides lugs and traction as you run on various surfaces. Trail shoes also provide more underfoot, like rock plates, that prevent your feet from getting fatigued. Some shoes also provide toe bumpers as well to protect your toes in case you catch a root or rock.
Take your time. Take your time getting to know the terrain. This means you might not be going at the same blistering pace you find yourself doing on the roads. You are now dealing with a bit more technical terrain. Maybe you will encounter more elevation, roots, rocks, and obstacles that take a little bit more thought and footing. Take your time, watch your footing, and enjoy the new surroundings! Most trail runners hike uphills, run the flat sections, and run downhills when ever possible. If you ever feel uncomfortable on a trail section, take your time and smaller steps.
Time, not mileage. Because you are getting used to the trails, focus on time, not mileage as you get used to the trails. As mentioned before, you are dealing with a bit more difficult terrain. Make it small time goals like a half hour at first to let your body get used to it.
Gear. We could get in to gear all day, but we will cover some of the basics first. Know the kind of terrain you are running on. Is it a lot of roots and rocks? are there significant uphills and downhills? Is there a lot of mud in the area? If the trails you plan on running on are technical, consider getting a trail specific shoe. These shoes have a lot of grip and tread on the outsole, providing traction a lot of trail shoes don't offer. Another key feature in trail shoes is that most offer a rock plate, which is in the forefoot to prevent fatigue that happens when we use improper gear to run or hike on technical trails. If you are running in the early mornings or late afternoons when it is dark, wear a headlamp. Some runners will even use two at times (one on the head and one around the waist) to help light up the path before them and to help create less dimensionality issues that can come when only using one headlamp. If you are running in an area that is heavily wooded, make sure to wear proper clothing and bug spray to prevent bites. Things like sunscreen and a hat are also important pieces of gear if running on a trail that is not heavily wooded.
Follow park rules/regulations. This may seem obvious, but abide by park rules and regulations. If running on a trail within a park boundary, follow the hours, parking rules, fees, etc. This also means no not break trails, or running where there is not a trail.
Take all these pieces of information with you as you head out on the trails and this will be a great tool to help switch up your running! Happy Trails!