Trail running and walking can sometimes feel so wholly different from working out on roads, paths, and treadmills that it can seem like a different sport, but with a few tips and a willingness to get a little dirty we’re confident you can get the hang of it in practically no time. The steep (but short) learning curve with trail running stems from the single fact that every single step is different – each foot placement unique and every trail presents its own challenges. With the amount of variation in the angle of the trail and the quick movements needed to navigate tricky terrain, expect for some stabilizing muscles that you don’t typically notice to be a little sore after your first outings. It’s also not uncommon for even the most experienced trail runners to take a spill now and then, but with the tips below you can minimize those falls and reduce the risk that they hurt anything more than your ego.
1) Take more, shorter steps: we cannot stress this enough, shorter and quicker steps are fundamental for efficient and fun trail running. A higher cadence (your frequency of footstrikes) makes it easier to adjust from one step to another and makes it exponentially easier to recover from small stumbles. A long, bounding stride is at much higher risk for spills – resist the urge to jump from rock to rock. Experienced trail runners sometimes look like they’re “dancing” on the trails taking lots of short, quick steps between rocks and roots.
2) Look where you want to go: your feet will naturally follow where you’re looking, so make sure you’re looking at the path you want to take. If you’re staring at a rock you’re trying to avoid, chances are you’re going to hit it, or at the very east have to make a last-minute adjustment to miss it.
3) Keep your eyes moving: in addition to looking where you want to go, make a habit of scanning the trail farther ahead when you can, noting if you need to switch to one side of the trail or another or are approaching a technical section or steep climb. Memory and peripheral vision will help you avoid small obstacles under your feet. When in a very technical section, your gaze will need to go closer to your feet but as soon as you can scan the trail farther ahead.
4) Hike when needed: even if you normally don’t take walk breaks, expect to do a fair amount of walking and power hiking on the trails – many sections are so steep it is more efficient to hike and some sections so technical it’s safer to walk.
5) Use the right equipment: if you venture out on the trails more than a few times, you’ll soon see the value in a dedicated pair of trail running shoes with more grip, more protection, and more durability .Trail shoes are even more critical in muddy, slippery conditions. Additionally, the remote nature of trail running requires more self-sufficiency, we advise that you always have water (handheld water bottle or hydration pack) and a cell phone with you in case you’re out longer than expected.
6) Run with a group: especially early in your trail running, it’s best to run with a buddy or a group. Consider joining our free club, the Mountain Goats Trail Club, to run or walk with our leaders familiar with the local trails.
7) Have Fun!
See you on the trails!
And, Now that you are prepared for the trails, sign up for Trail Madness! Its going to be a great race!