So, you've heard people wax poetically about trail running and you want to give it a try...but it sounds a little intimidating. Don't worry, you're not alone and those jitter feelings are normal! If you have spent your life running on pavement - or not running at all - the concept of heading into the wilderness is a little scary!
That doesn't mean you shouldn't go trail running! No, if the trails are calling your name you definitely need to get out there and frolic along them. Just keep these tips in mind and you'll do just fine. I promise!
Research the Trails
Before you get in your car or tie up your shoes do a little research on the trails in your area. A quick Google search will get you to a list of sites like protrails.com or singletracks.com [mtn bike based, but still great trail info] as well as sites specific to the state parks or county land trails in your area. You may also find blogs with handy trail reviews and maps, like the Boulder, CO trail list on DirtProof.
Look for trails that have minimal elevation change and if there is a rating system head for the beginner and intermediate trails. They might end up being easier than necessary but on your first trail run you're better off too easy than too hard!
Take it Easy
Trail running is very different from road running, especially if you're headed out onto a hilly or technical trail. Keep that in mind...and then leave the GPS and any pace expectations at home. That is part of the beauty of trails, the boring ol' numbers don't matter nearly as much!
Don't let a steep hill turn you around, instead commit to power hiking it because what goes up must come down! If the trail gets rocky and technical snap a photo for Instagram then power hike your butt up it and brag about your awesome when you get back to the Land of Reception.
If you're worried about being out on the trails by yourself talk your friends into joining you! Explore new trails together, chat on the uphill hikes and enjoy the stunning scenery the trails always offer up. It doesn't matter if they're experienced or not, you can learn together!
Even better - meet up with an established run group. Many running stores have running groups that meet for a variety of workouts, including trail runs. And if your local running store doesn't have what you need do another Google search for trail running groups in your area. Don't be afraid to ask to join them - trail runners also love extra company! Just let them know you're a beginner so you aren't showing up on a day they are doing speed work or intense hill repeats!
This is by far the most important part of trail running — have fun! The trails are fun because you make them that way! They are therapeutic because you let them erase the stress of the day. The trails can be whatever you need them to be, if you give them permission!
Just get out there, take it all in and return to your car or doorstep with a smile! You're first trail run may not be the easiest or best run of your life but it can be the door to a whole new world! Give it a try, at least once, it will be worth it!
Side Note: If you have a handheld water bottle or hydration belt, bring it! Even if you don't usually need it on roads you'll probably appreciate it on the trail, especially since there won't be a gas station around the corner with an annoyed cashier to beg for water!
Need a reason to put on running shoes and get some quality #trailtime? We have 5 of 'em — http://t.co/d73T775392! pic.twitter.com/7ijU12N8Q0
— Sierra Trading Post (@Sierratp) April 23, 2014