How to Start Trail Running? 10 Best Tips for Beginners

How to Start Trail Running? 10 Best Tips for Beginners

Perhaps the best thing about starting trail running is the connection with nature, the huge effect of nature on the wellbeing of your mind and the fact that you can enjoy exercise in nature with almost any fitness level and physical characteristics.

You can start trail running at any time of the year, but when winter ends and the sun shines, it's amazing to head to the forest trails. Especially in the city, when the street dust in spring literally blocks your breath, running in the nature pampers both your mind and your lungs. Trail running gives you nature experiences and effective exercise without you even noticing.

If you've dreamed of starting trail running, but haven't been able to, had the time, or managed to start, this article is for you. Here I put together the best tips for you to start trail running easily!

What gear do you need for trail running?

You can start trail running with normal clothes suitable for sports and basic running shoes. Depending on the weather, yoga tights, track pants and shorts go for running pants. For the upper part, any sports shirt and, if necessary, a jacket that protects against rain or wind. Choose light, stretchy and breathable clothing.

You can go surprisingly far with ordinary running shoes. Especially in dry weather, a regular running shoe does its job on dirt roads as well as on flat forest trails. You should consider getting trail running shoes if and when you start running more, in more challenging terrains or longer distances.

Here's the list of the best trail running gear and clothes of 2023

The best tips for trail running beginners

1 Head to the nearby nature

Find a short path, dirt road or similar in the nearby nature. Aim for easy terrain where you don't have to climb high or sink into a bog. If you have never even walked in your local nature, use a map application to help you find paths. Do not go to remote and unknown regions without a map and compass and knowing the basics of using them.

If going off-road alone doesn't appeal and you don't have a trail running buddy available, check out trail running clubs and social media groups in your area. Trail running is so popular that you will probably find a group that you can join as a beginner.

2 Start with a brisk walk

Even if you are used to running on the road, running off-road is very different. At first, you should get used to the uneven and soft surface by walking. Walking briskly serves as a warm-up, so there is no need for a separate warm-up jumping or running.

If your ankles are weak, problematic or have a lot of weight on them, pay attention to a good ankle warm-up before running to avoid injuries. When your body feels warm, start making small light runs and get used to the feeling. Hug trees sometimes if you feel like it. Walk the rest of the way.

3 Make trail running a routine

Go to the same path again the very next day or the day after that and repeat the walk-run-walk. If your legs haven't hurt (if you've been exercising regularly before, your body might not react much to easy running), take a little longer runs in between the walks.

For a beginner trail runner, a moderate start is often recommended, even just one run a week. However, the formation of a routine needs a little more frequent exercising. It is essential to get your ankles and feet and legs used to running on trails and to do easy and light runs often than to do strenuous runs infrequently.

4 Take short runs

Trail running can get you hooked from the very first time you head on trails. Even to the point that you crave more kilometers or miles every single day, if possible. As long as your runs remain light and short, there is no harm in a daily nature exercise. If you start racking up more and more steps, rest days become very important.

Too many kilometers or miles too fast will probably backfire at some point. Your development stops or takes a backseat, and running does not progress or bring the same joy. Iron deficiency may also hit you when you run a lot. So, stay with fairly short runs, or take enough rest days between longer runs, even if you can hear the forest calling your name.

5 Correct your running technique

When trail runs start to flow with routine, you can also pay attention to your running technique. Prefer a short stride and try to keep the balance more on the middle of the foot and the ball of the foot instead of the heel. Good running posture and gait can be improved with the right trail running shoes.

6 Hydration and energy

On short runs, you don't need any huge stock of sports drinks and energy bars with you. Fill up on water and eat a banana or something salty before and after the run. Constant sipping from a water bottle is not necessary anywhere.

When the running distances get longer, the exercise takes longer or the temperature gets high, it's a good idea to have water and electrolytes in the pocket. When the pockets are no longer enough, you can finally get a running vest or a running backpack that can hold also snacks, first aid supplies and extra clothes.

7 Poles are your friend

If you own any (lightweight) hiking poles or walking poles, try taking them along on your trailruns. Uphill is more comfortable to climb leaning on the poles. On the plains, trail running smoothly turns into Nordic walking, which is particularly effective for the middle body.

8 Remember to wear a hat and sunglasses

If it's cold, put on a beanie or bandana (read also tips for dressing for a winter run). If the sun is shining, protect your head with a cap. The cap does not have to be wide and upright, a regular cap will do.

Sunglasses protect the eyes from both bright sunlight and wind all year round. In summer, there will be also fewer insects flying into the eyes.

9 Set trail running goals

If you want to improve in trail running, gradually move from short and easy runs to varied runs. For example, there could be three runs in a week, one of which would be short and easy, the second faster or harder, and the third a longer peaceful run. At this point, you may already be looking for a sports watch, from which you can monitor pace and distance.

A goal can also be that there is no goal. Or that the goal is just to feel good and healthy from moving in nature. Trail running does not have to aim for competitions or weight loss. Trail running can be just the missing link in performance-oriented everyday life, as there is no need to perform, measure, or improve results.

10 Enjoy nature

Perhaps the best thing about starting trail running is the connection with nature, the huge effect of nature on the wellbeing of your mind and the fact that you can enjoy exercise in nature with almost any fitness level and physical characteristics. So, feel free to hit the trails just as you are, and see where nature and your feet take you!

Read also the No-bullshit guide for choosing the best trail running shoes

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