Hit the trails! (Plus three quick tips on doing it safely)

It’s definitely possible to become a heck of a runner without straying more than a step or two from paved surfaces.  But if you’re looking to inject some variety into your training routine, getting away from the pavement is a great way to do it.

Welcome to trail running.

Not only do you get a boredom-fighting change of scenery, but you’ll reap some impressive training benefits as well.

First of all, you’ll give your bones and joints a rest from all that asphalt and concrete.  Our bodies aren’t perfectly suited for hard-surface running and logging the occasional miles on more natural, forgiving terrain can be a welcome change.

Of course, you’ll pay for that relief with some added challenges along the way.

Running on uneven, often hilly surfaces will help you engage muscles in ways that running on pavement doesn’t.  You’ll ask more of your legs along the way and activate your core as you balance and stabilize yourself from side to side.

Aside from that, trail running is a great sensory experience that can really liven up your routine.  But before you hit the trails, take a look at these three quick tips on doing so safely:

Scope it out. Don’t just dive in, bombing down an unknown trail with your music blasting and your adrenaline flowing.  To run on a trail with speed, it is important to get the lay of the land first.  Start out with a slow, no-pressure exploratory run to help you get a feel for the trail.

Watch your step.   Rocks, roots, and stumps are all new elements to think about as you run trails.  And even once you’re familiar with the terrain, the ground underneath your feet can change from day to day as branches fall, debris shifts, and mud forms.  No matter how familiar you are with where you’re running, always be actively watching where you’re putting your feet.

Go easy on the shoes.  It might be tempting to run out and buy some of those admittedly cool-looking trail shoes before you hit the dirt.  For advanced trail runners, those might be perfect, providing additional support and improved grip.  If you’re just getting started, however, an old pair of sneakers should do just fine.  Trail shoes will often raise your center of gravity beyond what you’re used to and can play tricks on your balance.  Like all other aspects of running, it isn’t about the gear.

Trail running is great.  It will keep your workouts interesting, fight off boredom, and maybe even open you up to some very cool off-road races once you get the hang of it.  Have fun out there and be safe!

One response to “Hit the trails! (Plus three quick tips on doing it safely)

  1. Pingback: Change of Scenery — four quick ways to shake up your routine « Couch to 5K

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