Guest Contributor: Nate Brown (Nikwax Ambassador)
As the weather begins to warm up, you might be thinking about new ways to experience the great outdoors. If trail running is one of those things you've been thinking about, then give these 5 tips a quick read. You may find them helpful in your new endeavor!
TIP #1: START SLOW
If you are new to trail running, you should start off with a pace that is only slightly faster than your normal hiking pace. Get used to the jogging motion and how that differs from walking. Practice hopping over roots, rocks, and all the other obstacles you find on the trail that can trip you up.
And don't worry about comparing yourself to others you see out on the trail. They are doing their thing. You do yours.
TIP #2: FOOTWEAR IS IMPORTANT
Even if you have been hiking in trail running shoes you may start to find that they are no longer comfortable when you start actually running.
The type of terrain you are running on matters, too! A rocky surface is going to demand a sole with more plushy cushion than if you are running on super soft forest trails. I highly recommend purchasing your trail runners at stores that allow you to take the shoes out for a test run and decide afterward if you want to return them or if you want to try out a different pair.
Once you do find that amazing pair of shoes that speaks to your soul, make sure you take care of them and treat them right; regular cleaning and waterproofing will significantly extend the life of your runners, meaning you won't need to replace them as fast. Trail runners break down notoriously fast, but you can help out your wallet by taking care of them.
Also, you may want to try sticking some dryer sheets inside your runners after you use them... they will soak up moisture and odor, keeping your footbeds fresher.
And your nose will be eternally grateful, as well.
#3: KEEP IT SIMPLE
Don’t get bogged down in the gear!
The only piece of gear that you really NEED to trail run is that solid pair of shoes I covered above. Most trails (especially those short ones close to home) don’t require wearing the full-blown trail runner kit with the running vest, with all of the specialized ultra-lightweight and compact gear, and all that fancy trail running-specific clothing.
Your normal gym clothes will do just fine.
Just wear something that you feel comfortable in, that can breathe well, wick the sweat away from your body, and protect you well enough from any weather elements (direct sun, rain, etc.).
You can keep your running apparel in tip-top shape by cleaning it with technical detergent that actually removes odor particles instead of simply masking them (here's looking at you, Tide...). Technical detergent can also increase the wicking ability of your synthetic baselayers (Examples: Nike, Under Armour, lululemon, Oiselle, Outdoor Research, Black Diamond, etc), keeping them performing at their absolute best.
#4: DON'T GO IT ALONE
Some people really enjoy going on runs by themselves, and that’s great.
It can clear the mind, ease stress, or double as a podcast-listening session.
But for newer runners, finding someone (or a group!) to run with can make it more fun and also helps you learn more about the sport by talking with other people and watching other people run.
There are a ton of groups you can find on Facebook and Strava in particular that have group runs. If you have a local running store, check with them, since most running stores have regular group runs.
It’s the same truth with any activity: going with friends can make all the difference.
#5: PUSH THROUGH THE HARD STUFF
I’m going to tell you something right now...
...it’s going to suck sometimes.
Trail running is definitely a "Type 2" activity... meaning it is an activity that can feel miserable while you are doing it, but feels AMAZING afterwards.
Your feet will hurt.
Pretty much everything.
But do not despair; the rewards are great if you can stick with it!
Trail running opens up a whole new world.
That 20-mile hike that you’ve been wanting to do, but were afraid of being on the trail for 12 hours? Trail running can help you achieve it. It helps you go further and faster, which gets you to places in the outdoors that would normally take all day (or a couple days...) to reach.
BONUS TIP: RUN SMART
Ever wondered how someone could run uphill for 5 miles with 4,000 feet of gain?
I’m going to let you in on the dirty little secret of trail running that most people won't admit in the caption of their Instagram-worthy, trail running shot…
...there’s still a lot of hiking going on.
With the exception of those truly amazing "Olympians amongst mere mortals" type folks, most of us walk the initial uphill parts and run the flats, ridges, downhills, and smaller inclines after that. My friends and I call it “power-hiking” to save some pride, but the reality is still there. It’s just "fast hiking" some of the time.
Now you know the truth.
And if you never hear from me again, that’s probably because the trail running secret mafia took me out… unless I was able to outpace them on the uphill power-walk. 😉
Nate Brown is a US Army Veteran who is currently pursuing his Master's Degree in History, and resides in Washington. He spends an unfathomable amount of time outside in the great outdoors hiking, backpacking, trail running, mountaineering, skiing, and also documenting it all with his camera work.
To keep up with Nate, check out www.natebbrown.com or his Instagram feed @natebbrown.