Treat Your Body Right
Steep inclines and declines, sharp twists and turns, and a highly variable running surface mean that your body will be challenged in ways it would not be on a road run. Your joints and muscles are going to have to generate—and absorb—a lot more force than usual. This can lead to soreness over the next 24 to 48 hours, and if you're not careful, your risk of injury could go up. There are three things you can do to prevent that from happening:
Pay attention: Be alert and don't let your mind wander. Watch and listen for potential hazards. It may be a good idea to leave your headphones at home so you can listen to the sounds of nature instead.
Take it nice and slow: By keeping your pace slow, you have more time to recognize and react to the challenges trail running offers. Stopping to walk, climb, duck and sometimes even crawl is not only OK, but may be necessary.
Keep it short: Don't plan an overly long run. Fatigue can be a very dangerous thing on a trail run, so start off with shorter runs until you've built up some strength in the muscles unique to trail running.
Get the Right Gear
Having the right gear can make your trail run safer and more enjoyable. Here are some suggestions.
On Your Feet: Trail shoes are so named for a reason. Their soles provide superior grip and more protection against the rough terrain common to trails. Some models will have a fully gusseted upper, which prevents debris from getting inside your shoe. Top-of-the-line models will be water resistant or waterproof, which can come in handy on runs with puddles or streams to navigate. If you can't spring for a deluxe model, taking an extra pair of socks is the next best thing. Wet socks are not only uncomfortable, but they can also lead to blisters.