Updated: May 2, 2019
Spring is in the air, snow is melting off, the bushes and trees are turning green, and the temperatures are warming up, perfect time to hit the trails! Obviously, I have an affinity for the trails, especially in the warmer months so can not wait to get out there. I got my start into running on the trails, which began as a form of stress management and soon turned into a love. I eventually started signing up for some 5Ks, mostly road, some trail and after moving to Washington, I went onto half marathons then a full, mostly on roads except for the full. However, the trail keeps calling me back, there is just something about trails that is good for my soul…and just plain fun!
The following are my top 5 tips for those who run on treadmills or are “pavement pounders” and are interested in “hitting the dirt”:
Dress for the weather and come prepared. The further out from civilization and/or longer the trail, the more prepared you need to be. Make sure you have adequate gear like a pack to hold water, a snack and an extra layer of clothes (ie a lightweight jacket). Now, I am a die-hard believer that no matter where you are at or the distance of the trail, always take water! One main reason, you never know what’s going to happen out there. Another, which stems from the fact I started trail running in the desert during the warmer months, so the need for water will always be ingrained in me.
Error to the side of safety. If you are listening to music, make sure you keep it low or wear only one ear bud so you may hear upcoming bikes, other runners, hikers and even horseback riders. Also, observe trail rules like staying to the right side of the trail even if you think you are the only one out there. Those mountain bikes can appear quickly and keeping to the right will reduce chance of a collision with them.
Pick up your toes or face plant it! Unlike paved roads or the treadmill, dirt trails have fun little obstacles that you will need to jump over or run around which is normally no big deal…except for those little rocks or roots that stick up just enough to trip you if you are not paying attention.
Adjust your pace on the trail. Don’t expect to go as fast as you would on a treadmill or flat surface, your pace will slow down as you focus on the technicality of the trail. Now don’t let the slower pace fool you, you will be working muscles you normally don’t on flat surfaces and the increase change in elevation will definitely work your cardiovascular system.
Just have fun! Enjoy what you are doing and take in nature, not only is it great exercise but it does wonders for your mental health. There’s nothing like the smell of the desert after it rains or the joys of jumping over logs, trees or bushes after a storm or climbing a little peak to get a great view of the city. Run by yourself or run with a friend. Find others who like to trail run, the running community is very welcoming and supportive. Running with others or even talking with others about it, increases enjoyment.