How To Start Trail Running? Training and equipment
More and more people are switching from road running to trail running to get away from the noise of the city. Trail running is an endurance race that is practised in a natural environment and where there can be a regime and a condition of self-sufficiency and semi-self-sufficiency. Trail running is practised on different types of terrain (mountains, sand, forest, desert) and in different environmental conditions. It is a discipline that allows us to have a special and particular contact with nature and with ourselves, to get away from our habits and the ordinary world, and thus escape from routine.
On a trail, training requires more energy, more attention and more muscular involvement because, due to the unevenness of the ground, the athletic gesture is less fluid and the stride is shorter. In addition, differences in elevation, i.e., ascents and descents, must be taken into account (on asphalt the terrain is usually more even). However, running on dirt tracks has many advantages: it trains strength and power and gets the mind used to adapting to the circumstances. It is also less traumatic for the body because the ground absorbs the impacts. Uneven terrain improves our body’s proprioception. By constantly changing support, the feet exert a different force to move forward, feel a different texture (earth, grass, stones, rocks) and constantly maintain the balance of the body.
How To Organise Your Training?
- You have to find the right place: when you talk about unpaved terrain, you immediately think of mountain trails. But if you don’t live near the mountains, you can also opt for the forests, riverbanks and even the sea, running through pine forests or near the wildest beaches. There are also many dirt tracks in the countryside.
- Alternate between tarmac and off-road running so as not to lose the fluidity of the movement, but do not compare the pace with the kilometres, as it would be impossible to keep the same pace.
- For the first outings it is recommended to run without too many thoughts and goals. Look for flat routes at the beginning to get used to the terrain. And, at the same time, include a bit of climbing in your asphalt outings, alternating running and walking. On the way up, the pace inevitably slows down, out of necessity, but also so as not to waste energy and to be able to reach the top.
- Then start with trail routes that include to familiarise yourself with the climbs, but even more so with the descents.
- When aiming for more demanding goals and improved performance, start using a combination of training techniques that take into account the characteristics of the athlete, his or her goals and the type of races he or she intends to run. In any case, trail training has to include road sessions in which you train certain qualities that produce benefits that are also useful in trail running, such as speed, strength, the ability to maintain a constant pace and stride frequency. Last but not least, they improve the athlete’s athletic gesture.
- If the goal is not only to improve, but also to participate in some competitions, it is important to train on courses similar to the races you intend to run, with similar distances and gradients. Don’t make the mistake of always running on the road and thinking you can tackle a trail.
Trail running requires different equipment from road running, from footwear to clothing.
The trail running shoes have an outsole that provides extra protection for running on uneven terrain where stones or branches are easy to find. For the same reason, the toe cap is reinforced to protect the big toe. They can have a higher cut to avoid ankle twisting on uneven terrain and have more grip to avoid slipping on rocks, muddy terrain or descents. They are not always divided between pronators and neutrals, as pronation is difficult on uneven ground. They often have a waterproof upper to protect the foot from mud, rain and snow. Also important is the cushioning capacity of the shoe to protect against impacts with the ground, especially on descents.
In trail running unlike on the road, waterproof clothing is very useful to avoid being caught off guard by sudden rain or the typical humidity of the mountains, and it is essential to have a windproof jacket or waistcoat. Mountain running means climbing and reaching the top, where protection from the air is needed.
Bearing in mind that this is an endurance race that is run in a self-sufficient and semi-self-sufficient regime and condition, it is useful to carry a backpack containing water, food and supplements, as well as a windproof jacket to protect you when you reach the summit. In trail running, the routes are surrounded by nature where there are not many water sources and the shelters are not very close to each other. It is therefore important to carry reserves of water and food in case of energy loss. However, when you’re running, you can’t carry too much of a load, so you need lightweight backpacks that fit your body and follow your every move. Solutions are vests with pockets or belts.
In the forest or under trees it gets dark earlier, so if you run at dawn or in the late afternoon it is best to carry a front light .