How to Start Trail Running

By Laurie Fanelli in Healthy Feeling

Tired of running on treadmills at the gym? Maybe it's time to give trail running a try. Along with letting you enjoy beautiful views while you log your miles, trail running may be easier on the knees and provides the stress-reducing bonus of spending time in nature.

If you've ever wondered how to start trail running, keep reading for tips and techniques that will motivate you to head off-road and into the woods. (Pro tip: summertime is the perfect season to move exercise outdoors!)

Learn Your Locations

Finding the perfect location is important in how to start trail running

The first step to trail running is finding a good starting location. The American Trail Running Association is a great resource for helping you decide on an ideal trail. Whether you are looking for a straight, paved path or a rugged horse trail full of hills, this website will break down the courses in your area so you can determine which one is best for you.

Your local running store is also a good place to learn more about trails in the area. Many shops offer running clubs that can give you first-hand information about potential challenges (tree roots, steep inclines, lots of mountain bike traffic, etc.) and benefits (well-shaded, well-lit, access to water fountains) of popular routes.

Gear Up

If you are moving from the gym to the great outdoors, you will need to gather a few things to prepare for trail running. Trail shoes designed for uneven terrain will help protect your feet and ankles, and a hat will keep the sun off your face. Sunscreen and sunglasses are also recommended for trail running success if you're not going to be under the trees.

A water belt or hand-held water bottle is also a must for trail running. You never want to put yourself in a situation that could lead to dehydration, especially in unfamiliar terrain. Most water belts also feature a pouch for carrying energy gels or snacks, a necessity for long distance runs.

Safety First

Trail running can be a lot of fun, but it is important to keep safety at the forefront of your mind. Leave the headphones at home and pay attention to your surroundings. Always let someone know where you are going, and carry your cellphone in case of emergency.

Along with general safety tips, take time out to learn the rules of the trail. Stay to the right side of the path and yield to downhill runners, bikes, and horses. It is also considered courteous to announce yourself when passing another runner or hiker from behind.

Find a Friend or Running Group

Finding a friend makes everything more fun

Running with a friend is one of my favorite trail running tips. Not only is running with a buddy a great way to make the miles fly by, but it also provides an added level of safety when someone is always watching your back.

There are hiding places along trails where danger could be lurking, and a single person running alone is much more vulnerable than a pair—or group—of friends. Having another person along for the ride also serves as a safety net should you get injured and need help returning to the trail head.

Enjoy Yourself

Now that you know how to start trail running, it's time to enjoy the journey. If you see a deer in the distance, take the time to appreciate the moment. Listen to the bird calls, smell the flowers, and focus on the soothing sounds of your own breathing. Enjoy the wonders of nature while you exercise and make trail running part of your fitness routine. Consider keeping a nature journal to catalog your journey and to remember your favorite trails!

Where are your favorite places to go trail running? Let us know on Twitter! #HappyTrailsToYou

Image source: Maxpixel | Wikimedia Commons | Wikimedia Commons

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Why It’s Good

Along with burning calories, strengthening muscles, and improving balance, trail running also provides the stress-reducing benefits that come from immersing yourself in nature. Learn how to start trail running and head outdoors and into the woods today!