You might have been using the treadmill for quite some time now and you believe that you have already built the stamina that will support you on an actual trail. It may be so, but there are things that you need to understand before trading the comfort of the treadmill on a gym such as Equinox or World Gym to the actual rigors of an outdoor trail.
It’s More Beautiful Out There
Yes, the beautiful sceneries and foliage outside are more inspiring than the dashboard of a tread mill and the bland four walls of a gym. However, if you think that running on an actual trail is exactly the same as running on a treadmill, you still have a lot to learn.
You need to prepare yourself as well as your mind before going outside because what you will see, feel and experience on the trail are entirely different from what you have been used to indoors.
Here are 9 things you should consider when trail running.
1. Wear the proper gear
The trail surface is entirely different from the running board of a treadmill. Therefore, you need to change your gears, i.e. running shoes, running shorts and shirt. Water repellant materials would be best in trail running because you can’t tell if you are going to hit streams of water or even mud. In this regard, your socks should be higher to protect your feet from getting unnecessarily wet.
2. Warm up in the park or in a field
Before you run on a trail, try to get a feel of it by warming up in a park or in a field, especially off the beaten path. In this way, you will be able to get used to the off-road terrain and uneven road surfaces. This will prepare you to tackle actual trails more efficiently.
3. Strengthen your power muscles
When going up and down the hill, you are forcing your hamstrings and quads to work overtime. Therefore, before hitting the trail, you need to strengthen them. One way of doing that is to add squats and step ups on our workout routine.
4. When going uphill, swing your arms freely
Your body is trying to balance itself when running by automatically inducing you to swing your arms. Therefore, when running uphill, swing your arms even faster and your feet will follow. You will also find that you have successfully forced yourself to run at a higher pace, thus reaching the summit with less work.
5. Take shorter strides
When running outdoors, you need to shorten your strides. This will enable you to last longer and not go after your breath unnecessarily. Try to land your feet directly beneath your body for one complete step. This will distribute your weight evenly enabling you to land solidly on the ground.
6. On steep hills and very difficult terrain, just walk
It is unwise to run even on very steep hills and very difficult terrain. Safety must be your first concern. Walking in this environment will boost your heart rate, but you’ll avoid spiking it.
7. Don’t think so much about keeping a constant pace
In the outdoors, you will find your pace dropping. Don’t worry. It doesn’t mean that you are not getting enough work out. Rather than worrying about your slowness, just concentrate on your strides.
A good tip is to take note of your heart rate on the treadmill, and then wear a heart rate monitor on the trail so you will know what numbers to reach for.
8. Look straight ahead
This is the safest way to run a trail because you can always see what’s up ahead and adjust your strides based on what’s coming up. Practice looking from 10 to 20 feet ahead and only when you get acclimated can you look farther. Since you are new on the trail, watch the ground you are running on.
9. Run with a buddy
Running on a treadmill is safer because there are lots of people around. Running a trail is a lot more risky because more often than not, you will be the only one running. If something happens to you, you can’t count on the ready help of another person.
Therefore, if you are running a trail, it would be better if you can persuade a friend to run with you. It would even be more fun doing it with a buddy since you will be able to encourage each other along the way.
10. Carry a mobile phone
On the trail, you will be out in the wilds. But that doesn’t mean that you need to be out of reach. If anything happens, you need to call somebody for help. In such cases, a small mobile phone will be very useful. Therefore, carry one. It may save your life.