Trail running is one of the best ways to stay in shape and enjoy the great outdoors at the same time; however, that doesn’t always mean everyone is equipped to deal with the reality of the hobby. Without the right gear and a keen sense of awareness, trail running can be a far more hazardous activity than it needs to be.
Thankfully, there are several ways you can maximize the fitness and enjoyment you get from trail running while minimizing the risks and danger.
1. Don’t Forget Your Muscles
Many fitness enthusiasts make the mistake of thinking their cardio and muscle-building regimens are two completely separate worlds that don’t play into each other at all. The reality is that having a good cardio routine can better prepare your heart and lungs for the stressors of weight lifting, and concentrating on your muscles can make you stronger, more limber, and better prepared overall for the challenging trails ahead.
Stretching and strengthening your muscles can go a long way towards helping you beat your record time when you next hit the path!
2. Take it in Stride
One of the easiest (and most common) mistakes to make while running is to overextend your legs. Taking too long of a stride while running can put needless pressure on your muscles and exacerbate the risk of uneven trail floor giving you more trouble than it’s worth. According to expert K. Aleisha Fetters, your feet should be hitting the ground about 180 times per minute, which should keep you moving at a peppy pace without increasing your risk of personal injury.
3. Find the Right Fit
Lots of people will tell you that you need the proper running shoes to get the most out of your daily jog, but did you know that the socks you choose can be just as important? While the everyday socks you wear with your loafers or sneakers run the risk of tearing and fraying with the use that comes from vigorous exercise, well-made compression socks will keep their shape and help give your feet the proper traction after miles and miles of use.
Believe it or not, the socks you wear could be the difference between uncomfortable sores and strains and a smooth run every time.
4. Research Your Running Path
As the very first entry on Runners World’s own guide for trail running points out, no two trails are going to be exactly the same. Different paths are going to have different types of terrain, different levels of elevation, and different levels of runner traffic at varying times of day, among many other things you need to take into account. Do a little bit of online research (or even some in-person reconnaissance) to see if the trail you want to run is right for you before you hit it.
5. Don’t Neglect Home Cardio
Trail running is definitely one of the best ways to squeeze cardio into your fitness routine, but it’s only one of many ways you should be trying to keep your heart rate elevated. If you don’t have your running fundamentals down on your sidewalk, gym, and in your own home, you should make sure you’ll be prepared for the trail by indulging in some more conventional running routines first.
Finding and using an elliptical that’s right for you is a great way to make sure your body is prepared for the trail before you find out too late that it isn’t.
6. Train Your Mind
Every part of your mind needs to be alert when you hit the trail in a way that isn’t necessarily true when you’re on the treadmill.
The weather can reshape the terrain in real time, other people you run into can present hassles you weren’t expecting, and although it’s rare, even wild animals can show up to throw some danger into the mix. Being a great trail runner isn’t just about mastering the land with your body; it’s also about focusing your mind and being aware of your surroundings.
What did you think of our list of ways to get the most out of your trail run? Do you have anything you’d like to share from your own experiences of conquering your local paths? Sound off in the comments below and join a community of fitness enthusiasts that are waiting to hear from you!
About the Author
Tess DiNapoli is an artist, freelance writer, and content strategist. She has a passion for yoga and often writes about health and wellness, but also enjoys covering the fashion industry and the world of fitness.