Trail Running for Beginners: 5 Tips to Avoid Injury
Many people find themselves interested in trail running but find themselves pulling back due to the seemingly hazardous environment of the sport. On the surface, trail running may appear to come with a high risk of injury due to its outdoor, rocky environment, but is that the case?
Running over rocky, muddy and uneven terrain does come with a higher risk of falling or turning your ankle however, if you take a look at experienced trail runners in action, you will notice that they are able to effortlessly glide over even the most challenging of surfaces – and rarely fall or experience injury on the trail.
With this in mind, trail running is not as hazardous as it may appear. When you begin your off-road running journey, you can take certain steps to minimize your risk of injury (as with all sports) and soon, you will be gliding over rocks and invigorating terrain.
5 Top Trail Running Tips to Avoid Injury
- Invest in the right footwear
Get yourself footwear that is engineered specifically for the trails. The best trail running shoes offer grip and come with tougher souls to keep you steady on the trail. Road running shoes won’t suffice for the rocky surface, muddy ground and steep inclines and you’ll need to invest in a shoe that comes with a tread pattern that bites into the trail surface and grippy rubber soles to guide you down any slippery rocks.
- Slow down on the trail
Trail running is not the same as road running, so don’t try to run at the same pace on the trails as you would on the road. Trails are full of little surprises and that is part of what makes trail running so great and exciting. You may also feel confident in the root you are taking; however, trails change over time and the surface will change based on the weather , undergrowth and natural conditions such as a fallen tree. The terrain is dynamic and ever evolving and with this in mind, a slower pace doesn’t mean you are failing – you are learning and keeping yourself safe.
- Always look ahead
Trail running requires that you need to be more attentive then when you are on the open road. When it comes to trail running, you need to learn to read the ground and the surface ahead while you take to the route. As trail running terrain is dynamic, you need to be aware of any possible uneven surfaces. In order to do this, try to look 3 steps ahead when looking at the ground and resist the urge to only look down at your feet. This behaviour will allow you to identify any possible hazards in the trail and make sure to wear a headlamp when running at night and focus your light 3 metres ahead of your feet.
- Lift your feet
Running over rocky terrain comes with a lot of possible trip hazards and this requires a different technique to road running. A shuffling style with feet close to the ground will usually result in a trip and trail runner beginners need to actively think about lifting their feet up more than they would when they are running on the road.
- Training and Strength Training
Training is vital to all sports and it is important you seek out an area of rough terrain and practice running over it. Make sure to do some repeats and as you become more confident in the terrain, increase your pace. By repeating this kind of training, you will develop greater balance, foot-eye coordination and agility in outdoor terrain which will inevitably decrease the possibility of injury.
Injuries usually happen when a runner becomes fatigued and this can lead to increased risk of tripping and falling – especially toward the end of a race. Training will help this and strength training in particular, will help runners become more fatigue resistant and ultimately helps ward off injury. You don’t need a gym in order to do this and you can use bodyweight if you don’t have access to weight equipment such as dumbbells. Simple strength training exercises include lunges and step ups.
No matter how prepared you are, accidents can happen so make sure to stay safe on the trails. Always run with others, let someone know the route you are taking and don’t push beyond your ability level. Enjoy your new adventure!
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