How to Start Trail Running

Lots of runners that usually run on paved tracks with trade in city running for hitting the trails.  Trail running gives you the chance to check out different scenery, it has less impact on your joints and it can help motivate you to keep running.  You still need to take the time to transition properly so you don’t end up with an injury that keeps you from running.  Going from running on hard pavement or concrete to trails will challenge your body in new ways and improve your fitness.  Here are some tips on how to start trail running and avoid injury.

Start with Jumping

Running trails is a whole different experience, the trail is rarely flat or smooth and you will be going up and down hills.  This can be hard on your joints and you can absorb a great deal of impact particularly when running downhill.  You can prepare for trails by first doing some plyometric exercises.  Add jumping to your strength training routing a couple of times a week, start with box jumps and move to depth jumps.  Skipping or one legged hops can also help prepare your muscles and joints for off road running.  Here are some plyometric exercises to get you started.

Strengthen Your Ankles

Trail running is filled with rocks, sticks, tree roots and everything else that can possible be put in your path.  All of these things are perfect for twisting or spraining an ankle.  There are some exercises that you can do that will help improve the stability of your ankles before you hit the trail.  Work out with a Bosu ball and you can try working out without shoes on.  Doing lunges and squats in bare feet forces your ankles to stabilize your feet.  You eventually move on to doing plyometrics without your shoes.  When you first start working out barefoot stick to just using your body weight.

Go Slowly

If you are coming off a long cold winter running on a treadmill or on an indoor track you aren’t ready to jump right onto the trails.  Start by doing some plyometrics a couple of times per week and some barefoot lunges.  If you are running outside in the city then work a bit of trail into the end of your run.  Swap out a couple of runs on regular pavement for a shorter run on the trails.  Build up the pace and distance slowly until you are completely comfortable.

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