Trail running is fast becoming a more popular choice than hitting the pavements for runners. There are a number of reasons for this, namely;
- Less impact on the knees and ankles than hard tarmac.
- It’s more mentally stimulating navigating trails and countryside.
- You can enjoy cleaner air than inner-city running.
Now, we can’t all live near the countryside or some trails, unfortunately. Although, it’s well worth taking a drive or weekend trip to find some trails.
But, if you enjoy running and are fortunate enough to live near some scenic trails and you’re not taking up the opportunity to go trail running – you are missing out.
Trail running is a lot more interesting and fulfilling than running on pavements or roads (not just my opinion!). You get to experience the great outdoors, see nature, navigate through different obstacles and running surfaces, and get a great workout in.
Before you head out and hit the trails, there are some potential hazards with trail running to be aware of. Nothing serious or anything that should dissuade you, but safety always comes first so please take a read of the following if you’re new to trail running:
5 Tips to Help You Stay Safe When Trail Running
Let a Friend Know Where You’re Running
A buddy system when running is always one of the basics, You might not think about if when running aroud the area where you live, but it’s important when heading off on the trails.
One of my mottos is; ‘Always be prepared for the worst-case scenario that will never happen’. This means always let a friend know where you are going to be running, and the approximate time you will return – just in case.
You’ll find it’s a good peace of mind for them as much as you. Knowing where to start looking should you get sidetracked will likely be the difference between finding you or not.
Try and Find Someone Who Has Hiked the Trail Before
Running a trail blind doesn’t need to be part of the experience. Always try and find someone who has run the trail before and ask them if there are any surprises, what the challenges are, etc.
It’s surprisingly easy too with all the modern technology at our fingertips. A few Google searches and I’m almost certain you’ll find some information on a known trail, or someone blogging about their experience.
Telling yourself you will just use trail signs and wing it is not a good idea. I’ve found these to be less than helpful on a number of occasions, and worse than that, if you hit some terrain you’re not prepared for you also increase your chance of injury.
Find a Trail Suited to Your Abilities
Most people who run are competitive by nature, right? I know I am, but there are absolutely no benefits to trying to run a trail that’s way too difficult.
If you’ve done your research to find trails near you or trails that interest you there should also be some information on the difficulty.
The golden rule here is that while it’s great to push yourself – do so in a sensible way that rewards you with incremental gains.
There is nothing to be gained from tackling a trail that beats you after a few minutes. It’s a sure way to end up injured, demotivated, or both!
Don’t Leave Home Without the Essentials
Essentials are exactly that, essential. Here are the things I never head out on a trail run without include:
A hydration bladder or other source of fluid to keep hydrated.
My phone tucked away in one of those arm straps with a holder. No, it’s not that I want to miss a call, it’s there incase of an emergency.
For runs longer than 1-1.5 hours I’d recommend taking something to snack on, some energy food, and if it’s a hot day don’t forget a cap and some sun cream.
That’s about it really, you want to travel light when trail running and there isn’t a lot to take if you’re just going to be out there a couple of hours.
Oh, don’t forget any important medications. But I know you wouldn’t forget something that important. 🙂
Dress for the Occasion
Look ahead of time so you’re aware of the weather conditions you are going to be running in. Wear a windbreaker if it’s going to be windy, extra layers of warmth for those chilly mornings or winter months, or go light with a cap and sun cream if it’s a hot sunny day.
Choice of footwear is also important to avoid injury, as is knowing how to care for your shoes (which I’ve covered in this post). A little due diligence before heading off will make the whole run more enjoyable and successful.
So Now You’re Safe, What Are the Benefits of Trail Running?
It’s estimated that trail running burns 10% more calories than normal pavement running. While also having less impact on your joints, and giving your leg muscles a more well-rounded workout across the different terrains.
So, if burning more calories, getting a better workout, working your muscles in a more dynamic way, and being less stressful on your body isn’t enough, I’m not sure what else I can say to convince you.
Well, I could spend some time talking about the awesome views, scents of the outdoors, wildlife spotting, and other cool things you’ll only experience in the great outdoors….
It’s not hard to get started either. I’m sure with a little research you can find a trail near your home. You can start with any trails that are off-road. This can include grassy areas, sand, dirt, or other surfaces that are not concrete.
If you are deep in the city and the nearest off-road trails are miles away, it’s worth taking a drive to get there. Even if you can only go out there at weekends, mixing off-road running into your running routine brings some much-needed variation.
So there you have it, you no longer have any excuses. Find your nearest trail to run, keep all of the safety points in mind, and have fun!