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Tired of your same old running route? Break out of the mundane with some good old fashioned trail running.
When running on the road it’s easy to zone out and not think about the act of running. It can get mentally boring at times and the mind tries to find some outlet. Many people like to listen to music to help pass the miles more quickly. On the trail the mind has to be as engaged as the body.
Dr. Jerry Lynch is a psychologist and author who actually prescribes trail running to his patients who suffer from depression. He has this to say about the benefits of trail running,
Trails just have a way of closing off the rest of the world and all of the chaos. I’ve had several patients over the years who were depressed and taking medication and it wasn’t working. I steered them toward trail running and they became more at peace with themselves and found joy. – Jerry Lynch
Trevor and I currently live in a very flat area and we don’t have ready access to many trails. However, I usually pick a quiet gravel country road to run on over a busy, paved road any day. Someday I hope to live near the mountains again and have access to a variety of running options.
If trail running sounds like something you’d like to try, let’s talk about how it is different than road running and what you need to know to get started.
How to Get Into Trail Running . . .
- Start with smoother less technical trails at first. This will help you to get over the fear factor. Tread lightly and try to use a quick cadence and gait and expend even energy (taking it easier on up hills). As you build fitness you may even need to slow your pace and walk some sections.
“The race continued as I hammered up the trail, passing rocks and trees as if they were standing still.” Red Fisher, Wasatch ’86
- Think about posture. Keep your spine long and lengthened and your pelvis neutral (don’t arch your back and stick your rear out and don’t keep it tucked forward). Two important components of trail running include having a strong core and good balance.
- Relax– don’t run stiffly; keep your arms slightly raised and away from your sides to help with balance, but don’t tighten up your upper body.
- Shorten your stride and keep your eyes on the trail a few steps ahead to read upcoming obstacles.
Special Gear for Trail Running . . .
- Trail maps
- Trail running shoes with traction, cushioning, and support
- Watch (with altimeter and compass)
- Hydration pack (like the Camelbak) with sufficient fluid
- Light rain shell
- Tiny head lamp
- Energy bars, gels, trail mix
- Cell phone (if you are in the coverage area)
- ID and credit card
- Bug spray (Trevor got chiggars last time he was out in nature -Ouch!)
How to Find New Running Trails. . .
Plug in your destination on Google Maps and look for road-less areas, parks, and lakes. Link up to online trail sites that have topographical maps and reviews like trails.com , recreation.gov and
traillink.com Or you can find a local group for running partners trail-running.meetup.com Road Runners Club
Some other ideas for finding new trails would be asking at your local bike store. Mountain bikers often find new routes and have maps and local knowledge. Look for dead end country roads. Find a road that stops at the edge of a forest or open area and you’ll often find trails. Just make sure that you’re not trespassing. Head for water. In urban areas there are often walking paths and game trails near water.
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