How To Start Trail Running: A Beginner’s Guide
Want to bring some more excitement to your running? Well, trail running might just be the new adventure you’ve been looking for and we’ll show you how to start.
If you’re a seasoned road runner runner looking to broaden your horizons and discover new routes, or a novice new to the sport, this guide will tell you everything you need to know about how to start trail running.
If you’re completely new to running, don’t worry – check out our ultimate guide to running for beginners.
So, let the adventure begin.
What is trail running?
Trail running is, quite simply, a run taking in the heart of nature.
It’s like a hybrid between running and hiking, with a bit of cross country thrown in there for good measure too. You get the cardio workout of a road run, build leg strength through ascents and descents, while all the time being surrounded in the most beautiful of scenery.
That doesn’t mean you have to be high in the mountains to go trail running; rugged terrain, forests, even sand dunes at beaches can all classify as trial running.
It requires more concentration as well as more upper body work in maintaining your balance on descents or gaining momentum on ascents.
And don’t forget to watch your footholds.
But the real beauty of trial running is that times aren’t necessarily the be-all and end-all; trial running allows you to get some exercise in perfect harmony with the natural environment.
Top Tips for trail running?
So you know what trail running is, now you’re probably wondering how to get started?
And don’t worry if you’re still a bit apprehensive of giving it a try, these tips will help ease that worry.
Tip 1: Find a trail
If local geography isn’t your strong point and you’re unsure of where to find trails – fear not.
There’s loads of really good websites that will do the hard work for you, such as Sport Ireland’s Find Your Trails, or Trail Running Ireland.
If that doesn’t work, speak to some of your local running clubs to pick their local knowledge brains.
Tip 2: Focus on time, not distance
While some of you runners might be able to break the 20 minute mark for a 5 kilometre road run, the same distance could take you twice as long on a trail.
So before you head out, consider how long you want to run as opposed to the distance.
That last thing you want to do is tackle a run that is beyond your capabilities.
Tip 3: Keep your eyes on the trail
Trail running offers rugged terrain and injuries can occur if you’re not concentrated on where you are placing your foot. So try and avoid looking around at your surroundings until you have stopped or are walking, because a misstep can lead to a bad injury.
Tip 4: know the route
If you’re tackling a route for the first time, make sure to bring a map of the area or run with someone who knows the area.
You don’t want to get lost!
If you are going running on your own, it’s very important to let someone know where you plan to run or even leave a note in your car at the trail head. Of course, safety is numbers is always the safer option, but we know that isn’t always possible.
Oh, and most GPS watches can allow you to load the route into them too, so check out our guide to finding the best smartwatch for running here.
What you need to start trail running?
As we now know, trail running is different to road running, so there are a few essentials you will need before you hit to hills and forests.
Check them out below:
- Trail running shoes: your lightweight racing flats might help to smash your 5k time, but they will not be suitable for trails. A shoe with good support, stability, grip and comfort is absolutely essential. We have a wide range of trail running shoes that will suit all shapes and sizes, so make sure you do your home work on the trails you will be running to find one that suits your needs.
- Smartphone: Accidents can happen, and if that rare instance does occur, you will need to be able to contact someone for help. Unlike road running, there’s a good chance you might be the only person in a large vicinity, so you can’t count on someone coming along and helping you if you get in trouble.
- Food and water: It’s hugely important to eat and drink before your run, during and after. So bringing a small hydration pack, that includes an electrolyte replacement in your water and an energy bar or energy gel to top up the energy stores.
- Suitable clothing: Always be prepared for what the elements might bring. It’s not unlikely you could get the four seasons while out on a trail. So wind jackets, tights and caps may be a necessity.
The benefits of trail running?
There’s no doubt about it, running a nice scenic trails beats slogging it out on a treadmill any day of the week. And there are so many health benefits to running, according to our running expert, Killian Byrne.
If so, here are some of the many benefits to trail running.
- Mental workout: Navigating the ups and downs of trails will get your brain working in a whole new way. Rather than switching off from the world, you have to really focus on the moment and this can be a really positive boost for you.
- Physical workout: Overall, trial running can be much better for your fitness that road running. The resistance of the hills will work wonders on your legs, while the uneven ground can improve flexibility, balance and ankle strength. You’ll also develop better agility due to the fluctuation in stride lengths needed, while down hill running can even improve your speed.
- Mental health: Getting out in the fresh air, seeing some countryside and nature and giving you much-needed head space can have a massively positive cognitive response. Try it and we guarantee you won’t be disappointed.
- Less impact: Running on the grass, mud and earth is easier on the body than tarmac and concrete. So why not give your joints and bones a break from the impact of road running and swap it for something more gentle. Your body will thank you for it.
So with all this in mind, we feel you are ready to take on the trails and experience something new.
We’ve got you covered at Elverys.ie for anything you need.
Make sure you let us know in the comment section your favourite trails.