The cooler autumn weather sure makes for some wonderful running. Between the crisp air, sunny days, and foliage-wrapped streets, breathing in the autumn air can improve your performance and your running happiness.
If you typically enjoy a good run, and especially outdoors, perhaps it’s time to hit up the trail for a change of pace. If you have forests near you, chances are there are a set of walking or hiking trails on which you can try a trail run. Surrounded by the beauty of the woods, crackling leaves, the shade of bright, red-and-yellow trees, and variety of terrain are enough to make a runner’s heart swoon.
If you’ve never gone trail running before, you should know that it’s a different animal than your normal old sidewalk jaunt. While accessible to most runners, there are a few tips to keep in mind before heading out on your first trail experience to make the most of it.
- No trail is the same – so do your research. Some will be groomed, smooth, and easy to run on, while others can be filled with sticks, rocks, crags, and other challenging obstacles. Know what you’re getting into before your run so you can stay safe and enjoy it the entire way through. The best way to research trails is 1) to go online or 2) to ask your local running store, club, or state park service for ideas.
- Slow your pace and find your own rhythm. Trail running can be more difficult than road runs, so leave your ego at the door. Start out slow to avoid injury and get the lay of the land. Speed up only once you’re feeling comfortable with your current route.
- Take safety precautions. Always let a friend or family member know when you head out for a trail run; it’s important that someone knows you’re off in the woods! Bring your phone, an ID, and a map. Even better – run with friends or your dog!
- Always look 3-4 feet in front of you to avoid snags in the trail – and subsequently injury. Create a line of travel by looking down and directly in front of you on your trail run; this will keep you focused, in the moment, and safe. If you’re hoping to enjoy the scenery, slow down to a walking pace to do so or stop for some water and a breath of fresh air. Better yet, plan your trail to stop midway at a lake or other beautiful view to take advantage of the woods that surround you.
- Run by time, not by mileage. You may be used to running to a certain distance, but with trail running, start out by allotting a certain amount of time for your run. While you may be able to run five miles with ease on the road, that same five miles could take you double the time when accounting for obstacles and hills on the trail. Set a time – say, 30 minutes – and turn around once you hit the halfway point. Once your body gets used to trail running, you can up the ante and try to hit mileage.
- Invest in a pair of trail running shoes. The shoes you wear for your normal runs aren’t made to conquer varied terrain; they’re probably made for the flat road. Trail running shoes are lower to the ground and have a higher heel, so they protect you from rolling your ankle. They also have a rugged tread on the bottom that keeps your balance and helps you grip mud and rocks.
- Build leg strength. Exercises like lunges, deadlifts, and squats up your leg muscles and help you get up trail hills with ease. If needed, remember that it’s always okay to walk up the hills – even the experts do it!
Find a trail near you this week and head out this weekend! With the beautiful foliage surrounding many areas right now, we know you won’t regret it.
Do you run trails? Leave your best tips in the comments below!