Trail running is such an exhilarating way to get out into the mountains to move your body. But as a trail running beginner? It’s seriously intimidating.
People seem to be in incredible shape (“how can they run up that?”). Their calves are crazy-ripped. And the most obvious, people are completely into themselves and their ‘mountain athlete’ status and there’s no way a beginner is getting into their mountain-swoll game.
Which is where I call bull shit.
Unless you’re Killian Jornet and winning big races, it’s time to get over yourself and have some fun. But, such is life in a quaint mountain town where everyone is deeply into their mountain sports. We all start somewhere.
So with that mountain lovers, below you’ll find my best advice for getting started!
Don’t get overwhelmed by big races and people that have been trail running for a long time. Simply get off road or find something with a bit of incline so you start to get the feel of what running in the mountains will be like. Even if it’s just for a couple miles, everything counts.
Don’t overthink what trail running is and isn’t – if you’re off road, you’re trail running.
Start by simply looking for trails near you so these are easy to access. If you have to travel for hours, you’re likely to get burned out quickly. This obviously depends on where you live, but I’m willing to bet there’s something within a reasonable distance that you can find. Do your research and seek advice from other runners (see point below about that).
Grab a Trail Running Buddy
Maybe you’re the ‘crazy’ (in the best way) that’s decided to step up the running game a notch? Work on finding a friend to come with you! If they’re also new, you’ll learn together; if they’re not, then you have a mentor. It’s a win-win either way.
Also look for running groups in your community – most towns have groups that you can easily join! If you don’t know where to start, go to a running store and ask around.
Worst case scenario, grab your dog (or your non-runner friends’) and hit the trails.
Change Your Stride
Running consistently uphill, rather than a short sprint, is hard even if you’re a seasoned runner and it takes practice to get used to running that way. Take shorter strides to make the uphill manageable. It may be a hike or a light jog, but eventually you’ll build stamina to run on the uphills.
And the best part of trail running (IMO)? Running downhill! It’s a juicy reward for the uphill battle where you can blaze back to the trailhead. Keep you gaze a couple feet in front of you and anticipate where you’re going to step to keep your confidence. Gently land on the heel of the feet and roll onto the ball so you’re speed is in check. Don’t overstride by extending the foot beyond the knee, as this typically causes strain in the lower leg.
Remember to Cross Train
You don’t think running well solely depends on just running, do you?! Incorporating other forms of movement like yoga (obviously) and strength training keeps your body strong, balanced and mobile. Allow yourself to do anything other than running, because overall strength will equal to better running.
Find Trail Running Gear
Don’t let this point make you think that you need to become a gear hound to get into trail running – because you don’t. My point here is to make sure you have gear that works for you specifically. Some essentials you may consider are trail specific running shoes. Wearing trail specific shoes are great because they are generally quite light and have great traction. Head to your local running store and don’t be afraid to ask questions!
If you’re planning on racking up miles, and by racking up, I mean running for more than an hour, having a hydration pack to carry water, snacks and a jacket is another great thing to add to your gear list. You don’t have to get too crazy on this item – just find something that’s comfortable and that you don’t mind wearing for a couple hours.
A couple other items you may want to consider: headlamp and bear spray. Depending on where you live and where you’re running, you may not need bear spray, but it certainly doesn’t hurt to keep on you. A headlamp is more obvious as to why you might want to keep on you. 🙂
Let Go of Judgement
And lastly, but most importantly, allow yourself to have FUN as you learn something new. Enjoy the process of progress, because you will get better if you stick with it. Be grateful for having a healthy body that’s able to simply move.
Show yourself love.
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