A Beginner’s Guide To Trail Running
Written By: Ben Mounsey
New to trail running?
Don’t worry, we’ve got it covered.
Our beginner’s guide to trail running tells you everything you need to know about the sport, including tips to improve your fitness, choosing the right kit and how to stay safe on the trail.
1. START SLOW
We certainly wouldn’t recommend entering an ultra-distance trail race without first gaining the necessary fitness and experience required for tackling such a huge challenge.
Instead, start by slowly introducing trail running into your training plan allowing your body to adapt to the unpredictable and varied off-road terrain. Gradually increase your distance and time on the trail, learning how to cope with the changes in gradient and conditions under-foot. Initially, it will feel much harder (and slower!) than running on the road, but with practice you will become a fitter, stronger and more confident runner.
It’s also important to vary your training with a mix of hard and easy sessions, always allowing for adequate recovery and rest in between.
2. CHOOSE THE RIGHT SHOES
Wearing the right shoes is extremely important, especially as both the conditions and terrain can change so frequently. Ideally you need a good trail shoe to provide you with the perfect balance of grip, cushioning, comfort and protection.
Finding the right pair of trail shoes to suit you can often be a challenge. Thankfully, help is at hand: our website trail running hub provide detailed product information, including specific recommendations and expert reviews.
We recommend the inov-8 PARKCLAW 275 as they provide a perfect transition from road to trail. This popular all-round model will give you enough comfort and cushioning for the road, with the necessary grip for traction on the trails.
3. RESPECT THE RULES OF THE TRAIL
Follow marked paths and trails to help ensure your personal safety. Tell someone else where you are planning to run and how long you expect to be out. If you’re heading to the hills, always carry a mobile phone and extra kit in case of an emergency i.e. a race pack/bum bag with extra clothing etc.
On popular routes, please maintain an adequate distance from other runners and cyclists, giving way whenever necessary. Treat others with the same politeness and courtesy that you’d expect to receive yourself.
Always respect the environment and your surroundings, leaving nothing but footprints on the trail. Remember to take your rubbish home, and encourage others to do the same.
4. STRENGTH AND CONDITIONING
Build strength and conditioning exercises into your training regime as a great way to improve your running. Press-ups, sit-ups, planks, squats and lunges are all good examples of exercises that you can do at home as part of a regular core-strengthening routine.
Check out our #NoFunStandingStill AT HOME workouts for an idea of some exercises you can be doing to help prepare your body for the trail.
5. DISCOVER NEW TRAILS
Strava is a great way to discover new trails. You’ll be surprised by just how many there are in your local area. Download the app to explore personalised routes created and suggested by other members of the Strava community. You can even create your own routes and segments to include more variety and challenge in your training.
We’d also recommend buying a map of your local area. Learn how to use it, study where to run and have fun planning some unique and interesting routes.
6. JOIN A CLUB
Becoming a member of your local running club is a great way to meet new friends and socialise with other like-minded people. Running with a group will also help to motivate and inspire you. However, please be mindful and aware of social distancing rules when training with others.
The trail running community is friendly and supportive with many online forums offering plenty of help and advice. You can also join the Sportsshoes.com Strava Run Club to compare and discuss training, read interesting articles and take part in some fantastic competitions.
7. CHALLENGE YOURSELF
Entering a race is a great way to focus your training, giving you something to aim for. At present, there are no organised races in the UK, but there are plenty of virtual challenges you can take part in. Check out the Virtual Running Championship s one such example. Compete individually and/or as part of a team and the chance to win some great prizes, with all race profit going directly to the NHS charity.
You can also set yourself personal goals and challenges. Plan to run a 5k for example, and enjoy the flexibility of being able to create your own route and pick a time to race that suits you.
8. YOUR HEALTH IS YOUR WEALTH
The most important thing is to enjoy trail running. Use exercise as a way to relieve stress and anxiety and to escape the rigours of modern-day life. Lace up your trainers, head to the hills and discover a new and exciting world full of adventure, for there is nothing more enjoyable and rewarding than the freedom of exploring and running in the great outdoors.