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The Best Way to Start Trail Running

5 Tips to Help You Transition From Road to Trail Running

Lesley Paterson of Braveheart Fitness Coaching

If you've fallen into a running rut, you might be ready for a change of scenery. Trail running can help you become a stronger runner overall and it can aid in injury prevention, as softer surfaces help diminish the risk of wear and tear on the body. It's also the perfect opportunity to leave your watch at home, forget about your pace, and help your body recover from other hard workouts. Here are five tips to get started!

Work on your core and upper-body strength

"Because the terrain is often hilly, it's not only important to incorporate hill work into your regular training, but also functional gym work, so that your body can adapt to the varied terrain and constant changes in direction that come with trail running," said Lesley Paterson, owner and co-director of Braveheart Fitness Coaching in San Diego, and author of The Brave Athlete: Calm the F*ck Down and Rise to the Occasion.

Think about what you enjoy most about running

If you love to run with others for the social aspect of the sport and are more flexible than structured when it comes to setting a run pace, you are likely to enjoy and benefit most from trail running. "Because the terrain is often challenging and varied, it is more likely to dictate your intensity than the other way around," Paterson told POPSUGAR.


Invest in trail-specific shoes

It's important to wear shoes specifically made for trail terrain, as they create stability for the ankle and provide a good grip on slippery surfaces, Paterson said. Furthermore, they are sturdier and protect your feet from rocks and other hazards. Paterson herself wears trail shoes by On Cloudventure.

Keep safety in mind

"Always run with someone who knows the route, or make sure to have a map and a clear idea of where you're going," Paterson says. "Play it safe, and always let someone else know where you are running, on which trails, and how long you think you will be gone." Additionally, be sure to carry food and water in case you have a problem and get stuck. Lastly, if you are running in an area rife with wildlife, try to always run with someone else rather than alone.

Start slowly

You're likely not even going to come close to your normal easy pace that you cover on the roads once you switch to the trails. You may even slow to a walk at times. This is because the terrain is so varied and different, and you need to be aware of your footing, or you are likely to trip and fall. Always give yourself more time to complete a trail run than you would estimate for the same difference on the roads. Now just relax, slow down, and take in the scenery.

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