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5 quick tips for taking your running to the trails

Take the path less traveled for more variety, fitness and fun this spring.
Take the path less traveled for more variety, fitness and fun this spring.

One of my new running goals is to spend some time getting comfortable on the trails in 2014. Not only is the soil a more forgiving surface (much to the delight of knees and other joints), but the uneven terrain and occasional obstacles also make dashing through the woods a more exciting — and challenging — way to train both mind and body.

So if the thought of another day on the treadmill has you running for the hills, embrace it. You may have to slow your roll slightly in the beginning to master a different form and technique, but the benefits of trail running are well worth the effort.

How? Well, not only does it burn more calories than a run on your usual route, but it also does wonders for your balance, agility and coordination. Below are a few tips to help make your transition to the trails a breeze this spring.

1. Use correct footwear. Regular running shoes work for clear-cut paths, but for rocky routes, you’ll need special trail-running kicks, which provide better protection and traction over uneven terrain.

2. Ease into it. Acclimate leg muscles and ankle joints slowly by starting out on a flat path for short outings, increasing your time and distance by no more than 10 percent each week.

3. Adjust speed and stride. Take shorter steps and lift your feet higher to avoid pesky roots and rocks, and don’t be afraid to walk up steep hills or over tricky hurdles like streams or logs.

4. Keep an eye out. Your best bet to avoid getting tripped up by obstacles is to keep your gaze on the trail – about 10 feet ahead – to give yourself enough time to react.

5. Mind your manners. Follow the rules of the road, and stay to the right of the trail, avoiding a potential collision with oncoming traffic and allowing faster runners to pass on your left.

What’s on your list of running goals for the New Year?

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