1. Practice1 of 8
As with anything in running and life, practice makes perfect. The more time you spend on the trails, the more adept you will become at running off-road. Running on trails takes a mix of strength, skill and finesse; and all three will be improved the more you run on the trails.
2. Strength and Core Training2 of 8
Trail running requires a great deal of overall body strength and fitness, so make it a priority to hit the gym (or your basement) a couple of times a week to focus on total-body conditioning and strength work. Incorporate exercises that also focus on balance; Strong ankles, hips and knees not only help you maneuver on the trails but also help prevent injuries such as sprained or twisted ankles or knee injuries. Lunges, single-leg squats, planks, push-ups and calf raises are great exercises that combine strength and balance work.
3. Incorporate Hills3 of 8
Regardless if the trails you run on have significant elevation gain or are primarily flat, practicing on hills (even on roads) will help you become a stronger runner and prepare you for any climbing or descending you may have to do on the trails. Hill training can be as simple as doing hill repeats (run up and down the same hill) or finding a hilly course to run on.
4. Fuel and Water4 of 8
Having fuel and water to eat or drink when you need it on a run can make or break the run. If you are out on the trails, it could take a while to make it back to your car or home, so consider carrying what you will need with you. Packs are a great way to keep important items with you at all times, such as water, fuel, phone, etc.
5. Take it Slow5 of 8
You may start out expecting to see paces similar to what you are running on the roads, but even if it's a relatively flat trail, the terrain will prevent you from running as fast as you do on roads. Running off road can be exhausting and can take you up to twice as long to cover the distance as it does on pavement. Let yourself slow down and enjoy the experience.
6. Stay Focused6 of 8
It might be easy to zone out when you are running on the roads, but trail running requires constant focus. It's a mix of keeping your eyes down on the technical terrain under your feet, looking out a few feet for potential hazards and scanning the area around you, all done at the same time.
7. Control Your Fears7 of 8
Trail running can be terrifying, especially if you are newer to the sport. Between running down technical, steep hills or worrying about falling, letting the fear control you will slow you down. Just know that the more you practice running downhill, the better you will become. But also know that you may fall. It's part of the sport, and it's bound to happen sooner or later.