Transitioning from Road to Trail Running
Skipping over the roots and rocks like an elaborate game of hopscotch, trail running is like running’s weird cousin. However, take this as a positive; like every unique family member, they are the life of the party! This is how trail runs pertain to my training schedule. There is something extra zesty about a solid jaunt through the woods. It brings my mind back to the happy place of skiing through the backcountry and so much further.
"Location: Antietam Lake Park, Pennsylvania"
Let me explain the top five reasons to ditch the pavement and check out the wild paths in your region:
- It sharpens your senses. While trail running all senses must be heightened. Spacing out at the wrong moment can and will trip you up. It forces you to focus on the smartest place to step next. Your brain is constantly looking ahead and thinking, “What is the fastest and safest way to get from this spot to the next?” You have no choice but to be tuned into the moment you are in.
- Nature is your backdrop, and it sure is beautiful! Not to mention, “I don’t mind breathing in car exhaust,” said nobody, ever. There is nothing more spectacular than rounding the bend and finding yourself in awe of a glistening pond, or rocky vista. It will take your breath away: the birds chirping in their alien language, the smell of evergreens or a honeysuckle bush. When you do have a moment to take your mind off what’s under your feet, you’ll awaken to a peaceful natural oasis.
- It breaks up the repetitive motions of road running. The repetitious pitter patter, pitter, patter of running on pavement gets boring for the mind and body. Physically, your body will benefit from being challenged with a less predictable course. Your brain and muscles will thank you for the extra stimulation.
- Make it your meditation. Carving out time to meditate is a challenge, even for the most Zen of us. For me, trail running is an active meditation. I ditch the headphones on a trail run to be one with my body and nature. The hyper focus needed to stay up-right will bring you to an inner calm and time becomes lost.
- Tap into your wild spirit! I “wooo” to myself as I enthusiastically leap over a stream or propel off a large rock. Being in the woods is playful and grounds you to your inner child. It is a freeing feeling.
Now that I have convinced you to get off the treadmill and bustling roads, I have a few tips to make your transition to trail running successful.
Keeping laser focus is the name of the game. Beginners are wary of trail running for fears such as rolling an ankle or getting lost in the woods. These things are possible… and you likely will trip… but think about how many times you could have tripped if you were just mindlessly plugging along. Additionally, most trails are well mapped out and there are numerous resources online to help keep you on track. Worst case scenario, you’ll add some extra miles to your run!
As for shoes, a knobbier tread is preferred. When I started to dabble with trail running I would wear old sneakers thinking that I did not care if they got muddy. This was the wrong decision. Old sneakers have worn down treads, giving them a high slip factor and little to no stability.
Expect your pace to drop and steps to increase. You’re not going to clip at the same speed on the trails compared to the road. Also, remember it gets dark earlier in the woods. Be prepared! Like any other run, bring the appropriate snacks and hydration depending on your planned distance.
To help preserve the trails it is proper etiquette to run through puddles. If everyone runs around them it will continue to make the trail wider and wider. Mud will spray, and you will embrace it!
Now that the trails have dried up it’s the best time to go explore them. Keep your workouts fresh by sprinkling trail running into your training program!
Photo credit: Jason Gerhart @fresh_world_press