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How to start with trail running

Are you curious to add some more variation to your runs, or do you simply just crave more closeness to nature? Then trail running might be something for you! This article gives some tips on how to get started.

What is trail running?

Trail running is basically taking your run off track - possibly straight into the wild. Defined, trail running is running on any unpaved surface, be it on a beach, on a gravel path or in the forest terrain.

Benefits of trail running

In comparison to running on paved surfaces, trail running helps you build strength in a varied and gentle way. Your joints will get more stable, because you are using the small and stabilising muscles around them when running on uneven surfaces. For example, you will improve your strength around knees and ankles, possibly preventing injuries such as foot sprains in the long run.

How to get into trail running

Well, in general it is very simple: just get out! But of course we want to share some hacks that will give you a flying start.

Choose the right trail running shoes

A pair of suitable shoes is a great start to your trail running adventure. Trail running shoes are usually more stable and sturdy than regular running shoes, to provide stability when the foot meets the soft ground in the forest. Particularly, in comparison to other running shoes, trail shoes have a harder outer sole with a more rough surface to provide good grip on slippery surfaces.

The amount of cushioning in trail shoes varies, and you should choose the right model for your specific purpose. If you run primarily on soft terrain, choose a shoe with less cushioning. However, if you for example run on asphalt to get to your trail area, you will benefit from a little more cushioning. For runners who aim to compete, the weight of the shoes might be a factor to consider - in races you want your shoes to be light for energy efficiency.

To make the transition from regular running shoes to trail shoes smooth, you can go for a pair with more cushioning, good stability and a higher drop. The more used to trail running you get you can then transition towards a harder sole and lower drop.

Trail running technique tips

Here are three top technique tips from one of Sweden’s best trail runners, Emelie Forsberg (read the full interview here

  1. Vary the technique when running uphill. To make running uphill feel easier, you can vary your technique - for example, vary between short running steps with high frequency and longer strides. This variation in movement pattern makes you use your muscles slightly differently, and hence you will not feel as tired.
  2. Lift your gaze. When running downhill, you will lose speed if you look towards your feet or the ground. Instead, keep your chin up! But of course also be mindful of the terrain.
  3. Dare to lean forward. Leaning forward will increase your speed when running downhill. Try to land on the front part of the foot and adjust your body position to be more forward leaning. Increase your angle bit by bit as you get more used to this way of running and use your arms to support your balance.

Trail running training plans

Why invent the wheel again? When you are new to trail running, an effective way to get started is to follow a trail running training schedule. This can also help you prevent injuries by reminding you to be careful and increase the workload gradually. Here is one guide from Trail Runner Magazine for people starting from scratch with their running, and there are heaps of more guides available an internet search away. You will be able to find something that suits your goals, be it a plan to get you ready for a 50km race or a just to improve your aerobic capacity and endurance in general.

Hopefully this article has inspired you to try trail running, or given you some tips on how to become a better runner. Good luck and enjoy!

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