At some point during the course of a runner’s lifetime, he or she will be faced with a simple question: roads or trails? To the uninitiated, trail running can seem intimidating. The threat of getting lost, encountering wild animals, or rolling an ankle can outweigh the benefits of beautiful scenery, soft surfaces, and a great workout. According to a recent survey conducted by Brooks, 47% of runners prefer trails to roads. Here are some tips for the other 53%:
Invest in good trail shoes
Just as there are different types of tires for mountain and road bikes, different shoes are suited for roads or trails. In most instances, a typical training shoe can be used for running on groomed trails or fire roads, but technical trails (trails with many tree roots, rocks, switchbacks, etc.) require extra cushioning, traction, and ankle support. An added bonus is that most trail shoes are dark in color, which hides the dirt and mud stains!
Carry a trail map
When running a new trail, always be sure to bring along a trail map. Even for the most directionally-sound people, getting turned around in the woods can easily happen. Carrying a map is also helpful if detours are necessary due to fallen trees, erosion, or other unexpected hazards. Note: A GPS-enabled smartphone is not a good substitute for a map, as phone batteries can run low, and cell signal is traditionally bad in the woods.
Always carry a hydration pack
Carrying your own hydration pack is extremely important when out on the trail. Few trail systems have convenient water fountains, and those that do rarely leave the fountains running year-round. Opting for a hands-free hydration system is wise, as having two hands available for catching falls, climbing unexpected obstacles, and grabbing branches for stability is sometimes necessary.
Pack a snack
Trail running burns more calories than road running, which leaves runners more susceptible to glycogen depletion. A runner may feel weak even after completing a distance he or she is typically comfortable completing on the roads. Carrying quick carbohydrates in the form of gels, chews, or bars is recommended.