Avid runners know the truth about hitting the pavement. It’s not just about staying fit and healthy; it’s also about tapping into those coveted endorphins and earning a runner’s high. Indeed, what could be better? So, the next time you lace up your shoes, consider heading out for a trail run.
Soar through forests, up hills and alongside streams and lakes for a rewarding, feel-good experience that surpasses your usual runner’s high. You could even become a happier person for it.
However, even seasoned runners need some prep time to hit the trails for a successful outing. Whether you’re new to running or want to take your favorite pastime to a new level, here’s how to prepare for your first trail run.
Choose the Right Gear
Unlike running on smooth paths on your usual running route, trail running may change from hot and sticky to cool and shady on the same stretch. Take control of your run and stay as cool and comfortable as possible with the right gear. Your usual shorts could prove hot and cumbersome, so pick up some trail running shorts or pants designed with seat-activated cooling technology, wicking and UV-protection and inseams flexible for full strides.
Amateur and pro runners alike know shoes are also crucial to a good run that can mean the difference between a positive experience and blistered feet. Look for rigid running shoes with deep lugs for rugged terrain, or hybrid shoes with shorter lugs for a softer feel for leafy, wooded trails. Whatever you choose, make sure you’re comfortable and empowered in your new trail running gear.
Test the Terrain
Unlike pavement or a packed dirt path, trail running terrain can vary in ruggedness and level of difficulty. Do a quick test run of the terrain where you plan to take your first long trail run. Is it rocky and full of tree roots? Is it smooth and relatively soft? Do you cross over water? Get a feel for the terrain and what to expect. If it feels too ambitious, look for smoother trails and flatter terrain as you build up your endurance and skill level for hitting the trails.
Protect Your Health
You embark on your first trail run, hit the morning sun and realize you didn’t bring enough water to stay hydrated through the day. Elevated trails can suck away valuable nutrients faster than running on a flat surface.
In that case, come prepared with plenty of water, Nuun tablets for your hydration pack and some nut-butter filled bars. Try Larabars or your favorite healthy bar and bring a spare in case you run through your supplies faster than expected or hit an unexpected delay in your run.
Scan the Trails
Safety is paramount on a trail run, especially if you’re flying solo; after all, it’s easy to twist your foot or go sailing across the trail after hitting a hidden root. Trail running requires continuously scanning the ground for loose rocks and bumpy terrain to protect yourself on the go.
It’s also wise to make sure someone knows when they should start worrying about your lengthy absence. Always tell someone where you’re headed and when you expect to be back, and ask them to touch base with you if they haven’t heard from you by a specific time.
Leave Nothing Behind
You zip down the trail, race up a hill and realize your snack wrapper has gone rogue. Where is it? It’s tempting to keep running and let the urban jungle take care of our scraps and misplaced garbage. However, trail running requires a “leave no trace” approach. Protect the trails, wildlife and other runners by taking inventory of everything you brought with you and leaving nothing behind.
Get Out of Your Comfort Zone
Trail running provides a satisfying experience that challenges your usual routine and gets you out of your comfort zone. From choosing the right gear to taking care of yourself and the world around you, embrace your new pastime with care and enthusiasm.