Thinking about venturing off-road on your next run? I can assure you that you won’t be alone. Whereas trail running used to be considered a “fringe” sport, more and more people are taking their trainers off the beaten path and venturing out onto the trails.
Fortunately, that means more and more events like the 360° TRAIL event that I attended last month in the Tiroler Zugspitz Arena. You can read all about my experience here. Plus, there is now a growing community of like-minded trailers to be part of.
If like me, you’re a newbie, here’s some advice to help get you started. Yes, trail running can be for everyone! But you need to be prepared. So, here are a few tips:
1. Always warm up properly.
This is especially important when it's cold outside. Cold temperature can make muscles tighter and bones more brittle, which can easily lead to a break. So get's some blood flowing with a few dynamic lunges and squats before you even step foot outside the door.
2. Wear the right shoes.
If you’re slipping all over the place, you’ll definitely struggle to run. And you’ll put yourself at risk of injury. And a few weeks aways from running is probably not what you were hoping for. So stay safe and invest in the right pair of kicks.
3. Expect hills.
Seems obvious, right? Just make sure you're prepared for more hills. Never-ending hills. Uphills. Downhills. Any kind of hills. I walk up mountains all the time. But running up a mountain is another story altogether Which brings me to my next tip...
4. Know your limits.
You probably won’t be able to run the whole time and that’s okay. Take your time. Why are you in such a hurry anyway? This is supposed to be enjoyable, right? And listen to your body and don’t ever feel ashamed to slow down or call it a day if you’re too tired. Tiredness leads to injury. Especially when you’re running downhill on a slippery stone path. There will be another chance tomorrow. And the next day. And the next day. OK. I think you get the point.
5. Enjoy the scenery.
The mountains are an incredible place. But if you’re in a rush, how can you take in your beautiful surroundings? Don’t be so focused on your sport that you don’t take a moment to look at the magnificent scenery around you, or to even snap a pic.
6. Plan your route.
To avoid getting lost, download a map on your phone before your go in case your phone loses the signal! And depending on how far you plan to go, it might be a good idea to tell someone else where you're going just in case.
7. Head out with some friends and have fun.
I normally like to run solo. It’s my zen place and gives me time to think. Plus, I can go at my own pace without anyone being too fast or heaven forbid too slow! But I have to say, running with a group of people and sharing the experience can also be pretty cool. Especially when you trail run. If you don’t know anyone that runs, there are plenty of running clubs and other ways to find people. Who knows, you might make some new friends.
8. Definitely bring some water.
I usually wouldn’t dream of carrying a bottle of water on a 5km run or even a 10km run on the flats. But hill running will make you thirstier than you could ever imagine. Especially if it’s hot outside. It turns out those running backpacks are handy after all. And if you do happen to get lost, you’ll at least have some hydration. And you could always throw in a first aid kit for any blisters, cuts, or scrapes.
9. Layer up.
The mountains can get chilly but you’ll get hot when you’re running. The same rules apply as those for hiking, climbing, ski touring, and yes, trail running. Wear light layers that you can easily take on and off so you can be as comfortable as possible. Just one less thing to think about as you negotiate the trails.
10. Don't forget to stretch afterwards.
Hills can be a real pain in the butt. Literally. Calve muscles, quads, glutes – give them all some post-run love .
11. Finally, it’s all about core.
Turns out those pilates classes I’ve avoided for all these years acually are pretty useful. You don't have to join a class. There are plenty of apps these days that can guide you through some core-strengthening exercises to get you trail ready in no time.
Disclaimer: Follow at your own discretion. I am definitely not an expert trail runner! I mean at least, not yet ;)
Ok, that’s all of my unsolicited advice! Hope to see you on the trails soon...