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6 Crucial Trail Running Tips for Beginners

trail runner in the mountains
Trail running can be a great way to challenge yourself and expand your fitness goals! If you're an indoor runner looking to delve into trail running, there are a few things you should do to prepare yourself first.

by Catherine Santino

Not all runs are created equal! If you're an indoor runner looking to delve into trail running, there are a few things you should do to prepare yourself first. Trail conditions can be very different from a treadmill or an indoor track — and should be approached differently.

But don't let that prevent you from giving trail running a try! It can be a great way to challenge yourself and work toward your fitness goals. All it takes is a bit of research beforehand and, of course, the right mindset. Check out these six trail running tips to ensure the best first experience possible.

1. Invest in the Right Shoes

If you plan to run on smooth, even ground, your indoor running shoes can work just fine. But for rougher, more rugged terrain, it's wise to invest in a good pair of trail running shoes. This kind of footwear tends to be sturdier and has better traction, which makes it easier for you to navigate unstable ground.

2. Have a Plan

Before you head out, do some research on the trails in your area and determine whether they're suited to your needs. For example, as a beginner, you'll likely want to start on an easier trail with fewer obstacles and less incline. It's also a good idea to look at the distance and altitude change (if any).

3. Come Prepared

It's important to pack the essentials you'll need during your run, based on the time of day and the conditions in which you'll be running. You shouldalways bring water and a cellphone — but if you're running a long distance, pack a protein bar or nutritious snack, too. It also never hurts to have a small amount of cash on you, just in case!

Of course, you'll need a place to store all of these things, and running with baggage isn't exactly a good idea (or easy to do). Instead, look for a compact backpack designed to hold your essential items during a trail run!

4. Prep Your Body

Trail running can be challenging in a way that may be shocking to your system if you haven't properly prepared. Thankfully, there are a ton of ways you can train your body in the gym before hitting the trails. For instance, the stair climber and elliptical machines are great ways to introduce an incline into your workouts. You can also venture to an indoor obstacle course to prepare yourself physically (and mentally) for the terrain challenges you might face.

5. Consider Your Safety

If you're a beginner, this might be the most important of all trail running tips: Always let someone know where you plan to run, or bring a friend with you on the trail. If you are running during darker hours or are unfamiliar with your surroundings, this becomes even more important. If there's a chance you'll be out when the sun starts to set — or before it rises — bring a headlamp or some other form of light.

6. Don't Forget to Stretch

Lastly, remember to warm up your muscles before exercising and perform a few stretches at the end of your sweat session; your body will thank you! This is especially important when embarking on any kind of physical activity that's new for you. Before heading out, take some time to stretch and get your body warmed up, as this can help avoid the risk of injury. Then, when you're finished exercising, devote a few minutes to cooling down and stretching the muscles you focused on during your workout.

With these simple trail running tips, you could be conquering the terrain like a pro in no time! As always, please consult with a physician prior to beginning any exercise program. See full medical disclaimer here.