There is no denying that we love hitting the trails for our running training. There is something about the trails that keep us going back time and time again and luckily for us we are spoilt with some amazing trails right on our doorstep. Not only do we love getting out in nature and off the pavement for our runs, there is no doubt that we also reap many benefits from hitting the trails. With no pace expectations, we find a new rhythm as we face terrain and hills that is parallel to what you can find on the road. Below we provide a basic guide to help you get started on the trails.
First things first, don’t head out alone if you’re a trail newbie. Find a group of mates to hit the dirt with, plan your run and let others know where you are going. Stay on the marked trails and watch for others, not just runners but hikers and mountain bike runners.
It is also best to resign any pace expectations before you start, trail running is a completely different game to road running. It is best to leave your ego at home and slow things down. The technical aspects of trail running including steep up hills, sharp downhills, rocks, roots river crossings and tree branches are going to slow you down. You may even have to walk hills and run the flats, there is no shame in this, overtime you will find your trail tempo and you will develop your technical trail running skills, in time leading to speed not only on the trails but also on the road.
Make sure you take the right gear with you, most importantly water. There are no water taps out on the trail and with uncertainty of the terrain a 10km run could end up taking double the time it normally would, a water pack is a must when heading out. It is also wise idea to wear bug spray to help prevent attracting unwanted bugs and bites. Throw in some sunnies and a hat to protect from the sun and any stray branches and bushes.
Make sure you build up slowly. Once you catch the trail bug, we know it can be tempting to hit the trails more frequently. You will be sore in places you have never been sore as you activate your stabiliser muscles and build strength in these areas, one of the reasons why we love trail running for our weekly training. Your body will need extra time to recover over trail runs as it is more taxing on the body. To stay healthy and uninjured you must respect this.
We hit the trails once a week as part of our training. We use it as strength session and a run in one. Not only through climbing steep hills, which of course will build strength, but also the downhill elements of trail running will strengthen the body through the eccentric loading on the leg muscles. It also challenges our coordination, agility and balance which builds overall running condition. Once conditioned to trail running, the risk of injury also decreases as we step of the unforgiving pavement onto some softer surfaces. Also, it’s not boring. Running on the road can at times be boring. We have all been on runs where the monotony of pounding the pavement is all too much and we end our run early. Even the professional runners we know don’t deny this. Being out on the trails is like being on an adventure. No day is the same with the trails changing depending on recent rainfall and other weather events. Being out in nature away from the hustle bustle provides a refreshing change. Bottom line, adding a trail run into your program is something you won’t regret from a physical and mental aspect. Give it a try, we don’t think you will be disappointed.