But do you need to change your running style when you're on the trails? What do you need to know before you head out the door and log some miles on the trail?
Here are trail running strategies from seven running experts that will have you looking like a veteran trail runner in no time.
Tip No.1: Plan Ahead1 of 8
Research the trail you're planning to run on. Carry water, a cell phone, and a map. Always let someone know where you're going and your estimated return time. If possible, check in at a ranger station or put a note on your car specifying your whereabouts.
Tip No.2: Start Slow and Flat2 of 8
Trails work your leg muscles and ankle joints harder than roads or treadmills do, so begin on flatter paths and run for only 10 to 15 minutes during your first outing. Increase your time and/or distance by about 10 percent each week. Try training for a challenging hike to acclimate yourself to the uneven terrain with a few hikes.
-Sarah Bowen Shea
Tip No.3: Think Time, Rather Than Mileage3 of 8
Don't worry about the distance of the trail, which is often difficult to determine unless it has already been mapped out for you. Also, because of unsure footing, sharp turns and unfamiliarity with the terrain, your pace may be a bit slower on the trail than on your regular running routes. Measure your run by time and effort spent on the trail.
Tip No.4: Fuel Up Before You Head Out4 of 8
Bring food with you, even on short runs, in case you're in the woods longer than expected. "Energy bars and gels are good because they're easy to carry and digest," says Monique Ryan, author of Sports Nutrition hydration pack for Endurance Athletes. The carbohydrates will help you run and concentrate. Also, stay hydrated with small, frequent sips from a water bottle.
-Brian D. Sabin
Tip No.5: Don't Run to Fatigue5 of 8
When you don't heed the go-by-time rule and stay out longer than your body can handle, you're more prone to falling or twisting an ankle. (This is the same reason most accidents on a ski hill happen at the end of the day.) As you get tired, your upper body collapses, your legs lose their snap, and you don't pick up your feet. The result? Rocks and roots are more menacing.
Tip No.6: Go Short on the Uphill6 of 8
Take short, quick steps or power walk when running up hills. It's just like changing gears on your bike when you ride up hills. Use your gears, shorten your strides and soon you will find yourself on top of the hill. Conserve your energy on the uphill so you can take advantage of the downhill.
Tip No.7: Cold is Your (Recovery) Friend7 of 8
Filling your tub with cool water and a few ice cubes and soaking for 10 minutes is believed to decrease inflammation by causing the muscles to contract. A high temperature soak may feel good, but inflaming your muscles more with hot water doesn't help recovery. You'll wake up sorer and more sluggish the next day.
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