Trail running has something for everybody; whether you like to run short or long distances, stay on the flat or head up hills. You go as far as you want, too - even race distances range from 3K to 100K. We've teamed up with the pros at Gore Running Wear to offer some tips on how to get started.
Take time to tune-into your body
The first thing that you'll notice when your starting trail running is that you'll have to get used to placing your feet on an uneven surface. You will also have to speed up your stride, to keep up with the constantly changing terrain underfoot - tree roots, stones, potholes… nature throws a lot of curveballs! It is important that you don't rush or push yourself too hard when you're starting out, as you need to allow your feet time to get used to the new movements.
We recommend that you incorporate some simple strengthening and stretching exercises to strengthen your legs and feet, and to help you to stay injury free. Great exercises include squats and standing calf raises. Also, do a full body scan every so often: "How do I feel?" "How are my arms moving?" "What does it feel like underfoot?" "How's my breathing?" - This will help you to pick-up on any discomfort and also to identify what feels good.
Have confidence in your stride
Whether you choose towpaths, fields or mountains, having the right fit and good grip on your footwear is definitely going to help and be a key to enjoying the run. Having strong, durable and high-traction footwear will give you confidence and reassurance in your foot placement. This means that you'll be able to move faster as you won't be second-guessing every step.
Wiggle offers a wide range of off-road footwear. The width and breath of the range is important, as it means that you'll be able to find a shoe that can cater for the many variables of off-road running.
Gradually increase your training
Trail running is known for being tough for a reason; running a mile off-road really does take more effort than walking or road running. Try not to over-commit on the first few weeks and runs. This may require you to leave your ego behind, as you'll find that you aren't able to go as far, or as fast as you would do on the road. It's OK - if you aim to build both distance and elevation gradually, then you should be able to make fast progress.
To start, we'd suggest that you seek out some undulating and rolling terrain that you can walk up without getting out of breath. Nothing massively taxing though. OK, you're there - now try running it! Get used to this before introducing significantly steeper climbs and distance. You can even just do the drill of run up, walk down, repeat - just add extra repeats as and when you’re ready. Building up gradually helps to minimise your risk of injury and builds a good strength and endurance base.
Embrace the challenge of variable weather conditions
Trail runners are hardy souls, but even though they're not likely to write off a run due to rain or wind, the weather still does tend to have an influence. Sure road running is also outdoors, but with trail running you'll find that you'll be in areas that are more exposed to the elements. This means that at the very least, you will need to be aware of daily changes in ground conditions, and make sure that you've got suitable footwear. Clothing with extra wind or waterproof features will also make your run considerably more pleasurable! Check out the special range from Gore Running Wear.
If you're yet to channel the "outside in any weather" mentality of trail runners, then there's a lot to be said for sticking it out; a run in challenging weather can be as equally rewarding to your PB as a run in perfect conditions. It's about developing mental toughness, which will keep you going even on hard road runs. Plus it will enable you to be more consistent with your training, as you'll be less likely to miss a session.
Shelve your excuses!
Trail running is a new challenge for you, so it's totally understandable if you're still a bit nervous. But really, take the leap of faith! You have nothing to lose just by giving it a go - aside from getting a good pair of shoes, you can get started with just your usual comfortable running clothing and a good sense of adventure!
Once you've worked out if trail running is for you, it's time to branch out into trail-specific kit. If you know that you'll be out in the wind, rain or blazing sunshine, then look for clothing and accessories to make your run more comfortable - windproofs, waterproofs, tops with pockets for some snacks, hydration bladders, GPS watches… The only limit will be your imagination!
When you've caught the trail running bug, and need some trail-specific kit, give Gore Running Wear a go. Even if you've not heard of Gore Running Wear, we're confident that you'll have experienced the benefits of their technologies. The Gore-Tex badge on your super-durable, extra comfortable outdoor gear? That's from Gore! - it's a brand build for the outdoors!