If sunny days have inspired you to move your run outdoors, why not step it up even more and hit the trails instead of the sidewalk? Before you go, here’s what you should know about how to start trail running.
When starting: You can’t just make the leap from a flat, paved course to a rocky, uphill climb without a few guidelines. First, start slow, and adjust your stride to pick up your feet higher, which helps avoid tripping. Also, remind yourself that it’s OK to stop, walk, or turn around if things get too rocky or steep. Find out more important beginning trail running tips here.
Be safe: Trail running can be fun and relaxing, but there are a few things you need to watch for. Running alone can have its own set of possible dangers, for one, so make sure you leave a plan with a loved one of where you’re going and how long you expect to be gone. And once you’re on the trail, keep your gaze focused ahead of you as you run so you avoid slippery leaves, jagged rocks, or branches that can trip you. Read more tips on staying safe during your trail run here.
The right gear: It’s all about protecting yourself from the elements. Make sure you wear sunscreen, a hat, and sunglasses to shield yourself from UV rays and invest in a pair of shoes made for the elements. Check out our picks for waterproof trail running shoes here, and learn more about the safest sunscreens to protect your skin here.
Once you’ve hit your stride and settled into running trails confidently, you’ll be rewarded with toned legs and melting fat! Try these hill repeats to start.
A good trail mix can be the perfect snack; no matter what you’re craving, whether it’s salty or sweet, a few handfuls can keep you satisfied and full. But there’s a right way and a wrong way to make trail mix if you want it to be good for your body. Here are four additions to make your trail mix tasty and healthy.
- Chocolate: Eat chocolate – lose weight? That’s what some people are saying, now that a new study found that people who eat chocolate regularly (at least twice a week) tend to weigh less than people who don’t indulge on a regular basis. It may be because polyphenols in chocolate increase metabolism, or it may just be that people who eat small amounts of chocolate regularly curb cravings so they don’t indulge in an unhealthier dessert. Either way, we already know that dark chocolate has other heart-healthy benefits, so add a few pieces to your trail mix if you’re craving something sweet.
- Superfruit: Add a dash of antioxidants by including dried superfruits in your trail mix. Dried fruit packs a punch when it comes to disease-fighting compounds. Goldenberries, for example, are a good dose of vitamin A, which is crucial for healthy eyes, skin, and teeth and may help improve organ function. Dried goji berries or cranberries are another good option for their health benefits, which include better immune and urinary system functioning and disease-fighting. Make sure to look for varieties containing no added sugar.
Running on trails can offer a much better workout than the gym treadmill. You’ll burn more calories propelling your own body weight forward rather than relying on the treadmill belt. All those natural hills tone your legs, build endurance, and can make you a faster runner. Plus, the gorgeous scenery and dodging all the puddles and fallen limbs make running more exciting, which might inspire you to run more often and for longer distances. That said, there are some risks to hitting the trails, and here’s how to avoid them.
- Bugs, bears, and other creatures: Being one with nature may mean getting a little more up close and personal than you’d like. Bugs like mosquitoes and ticks, although annoying, can be avoided with a little bug spray and by wearing lightweight long-sleeve shirts and pants to cover your skin. Bears, wolves, and venomous snakes, on the other hand, I’d rather not have to deal with. Talk to fellow runners and those that maintain nearby trails to find out which areas are safe from wild animals.
- Human predators: Unfortunately, furry animals aren’t the only thing you need to worry about. Always run with a buddy, bring your dog for extra protection, carry a cell phone and ID on you, and if it’ll make you feel safer, take along pepper spray.
Body-wise, running can be a high-impact sport, which can mean achy joints, irritated tendons, and other running-related injuries. Many runners use various methods to try to lessen the impact of constantly striking the ground.
For many runners, that means choosing a soft surface. But while you may think that running on soft surfaces may help lower the strain on your body, this may not always be the case. An article from The New York Times says that runners who preferred softer surfaces don’t necessarily have fewer injuries than those who ran on asphalt or concrete (and may have more, since softer surfaces can lead to accident-related injuries). In fact, some studies have shown that our bodies actually adapt to different surfaces no matter how hard they are, so the type of surface that we run on may not matter as much.
While the best running surface may be a personal preference, there are still benefits and drawbacks to each type. Whether you love to run on the street or on trails, check out the pros and cons of running on these surfaces after the break.