9 Trail Running Tips for Beginners

If you want to go off-road running and enjoy the peace and quiet of the trails, hurry up; it's about to get crowded out there.

With the weather getting warmer, more people are ditching the gym and heading outside for a run or hike.

Trail running benefits include new scenery, no car-exhaust and, if you want it, some extra-challenging terrain that can add a whole new energy to your running experience. But roadies are often surprised by how different off-road running is. Here's what to know before you head out:

More: 5 Reasons to Try Trail Running

You Discover Muscles You Never Knew You Had

"Trails force you to use your body in a way that road running often doesn't," says movement specialist and elite triathlete Jessi Stensland.

The uneven surface makes you engage your core and lateral stabilizing muscles, says Stensland, who also founded MovementU, nationwide workshops about movement efficiency, injury prevention and endurance performance.

More: 3 Best Core Exercises for Runners

Think About Your Feet (at First)

"On the trail, you need to make decisions about foot placement more often and respond to the terrain quickly," Stensland says. "What facilitates that is a stable core."

It doesn't take long to get confident. "At first, you're worried about where to put your feet and you're worried about falling. Once you get more experienced, you're not going to stare at everything but you'll see it anyway," says Joe Prusaitis, ultrarunner, race director and trail running coach for the Austin, Texas-based Tejas Trails.

"It's like driving a car: You're not concentrating on every little thing in front of you, but you're paying attention to it. As long as you keep scanning, you'll be fine."

More: 4 Tips for Safe Trail Running

You Need to Start Slowly

"The road runner might be fit from running, but they're not fit for trail running," Prusaitis says. "Most road runners are used to the same foot plant every single strike and they don't realize that on the trail, you land differently [each time]."

"The first few times out, you don't want to do a lot of mileage because it can trash you pretty good," he adds.

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About the Author

Marty Munson

Marty Munson is a USAT Level 1 triathlon coach. Her writing has appeared in Health, Prevention, Marie Claire, Shape.com and RealAge.com. Find more triathlon tips and strategies from her and other experts in the field at trieverything.wordpress.com.

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