I wasn’t even at the halfway point of my first trail running race when I felt my left thigh start to tighten up!
Crap, was this going to be the end to my first trail race?
I kept pushing through it only to reach a steep section that just pushed my limits especially since I hadn’t trained well for this one.
But, after crossing the checkpoint only 1.5 miles from the finish I realized that it was all downhill from here and I would do it.
I would pick up the pace in the last leg and finish 2nd in my age group and 9th overall.
I was born to trail run. I didn’t know this early on when I was trying to train for a road marathon.
I completed my first trail race and met my goals. I wasn’t fully prepared but just did it or just do it right?
You don’t have to be born for the trail to get out and do some trail running. In fact, popularity is increasing every year and I want to show you why.
I will also provide some easy tips to help you get started if you have never run the trail before.
Ok, maybe they are all not Crazy but some of the best ones are.
Leave a comment at the bottom and share your craziest reason!
8 Reasons to Start Trail Running
1. You don’t have to run
This is no BS! Although trail running is all about running on the trail to get some amazing exercise and experience the great outdoors there will be times where walking is ok. Like climbing a steep section of the trail or where it’s just too slick to run without falling.
This is a good thing because taking breaks is good. On pavement, you tend to feel like you’ve got to keep running, or at least I do.
Zen Habits notes walking uphill when needed to increase strength and speed while going downhill (see bullet #3).
So, go ahead and walk if you would like to. If you are a hiker, you can start easy. Add a little run into your hike at the beginning or end to test it out.
See if it’s something you might like. Hey, you never know right? And, you’ve got to keep pushing that comfort zone!
2. The Trail is Easy on Your Joints
I have this story I have always gone back to about training for my first road marathon a few years back. After the first week, I realized that running on concrete and my knees don’t go together. But, once I got off the road and on the trail, the pain went away.
Men’s Fitness also notes that trail running is easier on your joints in #6 of their article on how Trail running transforms your body.
If you need a lower impact activity than jogging around town then the trail is where to start. I think this is one of the big reasons trail running is gaining popularity these days.
3. Better All Around Workout
Trails are diverse and different. This is one of the awesome things about the trail. Roots, mud, logs, etc. All of these obstacles force you to do a lot more bending and stretch. This all leads to a more all around workout.
I was on a trail recently after a wind storm and there were logs scattered all across the trail. Although my run wasn’t fast, I got a great upper body workout.
I guess it’s a little more like cross-training in these situations. Keep it diverse and mix it up so you can stay fresh.
4. Fresh Air is Healthy
When you compare trail running in the outdoors to running around the city, there’s no question that the breath you take on the trail will have less baggage.
It depends on where you live as LA is different from San Diego for example. But there is no question that regardless of where you live, stepping into the forest will keep you healthier.
5. Everyone Loves a Challenge
Hiking is one activity that I really love. It’s great for the kids and it’s great to get outside. Sometimes while doing a longer backpacking type trip you will find some nice challenges.
But, just your typical day hike doesn’t always offer a big challenge.
What if, instead of hiking 6 miles down one of your local trails, you turn that into 12 miles or 20 miles in the same time?
Would that be a little more challenging? A little more exercise? A little more fun?
Yeah, for sure.
6. Meditation is the Key
I’m not a huge meditator although it’s something I know I will be doing more of. Why?
Because it works. There is plenty of information out there that shows the benefits of meditating.
Just look at some of the biggest names in the world and you will see that they set aside time to be at peace and focus.
You should too. And the trail is one of the best places to do this. It’s quiet. It’s peaceful. You don’t have distractions and you can focus on something. Running. Your breath. The trail.
7. Ditch the Earbuds
I thought I would never say this! I love running on the street with my favorite podcast in my ears. But on the trail, the sweet music of the natural environment is all you need.
It will allow you to connect better in #5 by stay ear bud free. Give it a shot one time and let me know how it goes.
I’m always amazed at how many new ideas pop in my head when I am just running and focused on that.
8. Always a Different Experience
Boring is old. People are tired of the same old stuff. That same run with the same houses and streets just doesn’t do it for me anymore.
But, get me on a trail after a huge storm event! Yeah, now we are talking.
The only thing that is constant in nature is that it is always changing. The leaves, the wildlife, the streams and every other aspect of the trail.
But with this different set of changing landscapes on the trail come potential tripping, falling and sprains. So be mindful of this and take your time. Here are a few ways to deal with the second most common injury in the wild.
Some Tips to Help You Get Started
A. Get some good shoes
They don’t have to be brand spanking new but get something that has some traction. If you are running in the desert, maybe traction isn’t huge.
But, if you are running in an area that has some moisture and downhill then spend a little money. It can save you from falling or even spraining or breaking a leg.
The other big factor with a good shoe is finding one that fit’s your foot. I’ve been down that road before where you don’t choose wisely and blisters are not far away (check this post for socks that help prevent blisters).
B. Start Slow
The worst thing you can do when it comes to trail running is to just go all in right from the start. Take it easy and get used to the trail. Walking is even ok when needed.
You will be training the majority of the year so don’t push yourself so hard that you get injured.
C. Find the Easy Trail
This kind of goes with B. Try to run to the top of the biggest peak you have in your area probably isn’t the best idea. Instead, find a trail that you have been on before and allows you to run comfortably.
Maybe something that doesn’t have as many obstructions or people on it. You can even start on a gravel road to get going.
D. Lighten Your Load
I’ve always been terrible at this one because I love all of the gear. But, when running long distances, every ounce matters. So, find a way to drop a few pounds.
A water filter is one way to decrease the amount of water you will need to carry.
D. Stretch and Warm It
I’ve always been on the fence with this one as well. After running the last race with a slight injury, I realized that stretching and warming up saved my butt.
It doesn’t take much. Just basic thigh, hamstring, calf and upper body stretches.
What’s holding you back now? You have an easy call to action this week. Just test out running on the trail, I think you’ll love it.
If you think running is too much maybe more of an ultra hike is where it’s at. I’ll check back in with this at a later point.