Tips for Making the Most of Trail Running
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Spring is right around the corner and as the weather thaws, many people find themselves itching to go outside and get moving. Trail running is a great way to get in your cardio exercise while enjoying the beautiful natural surroundings of your area. There are so many reasons to hit the trail rather than pound the pavement around your neighborhood.
- Trail running works various muscles and keeps your body guessing.
- Staying safe while on the trail takes intense focus.
- Being in nature is good for your mental health.
- Trail running can help alleviate symptoms of depression.
- Fresh air is good for your cardiovascular health.
Staying Safe While Trail Running
Even if you are an experienced runner, you want to start out slow when you begin hitting the trails. Getting used to placing your foot in the right spot in front of you can be a bit nerve-wracking, which kind of negates the feel-good benefits of running in the first place. Fortunately, after a bit of time it becomes second nature and you can safely handle the ups and downs without slipping.
Another way to protect yourself is investing in the right type of footwear. Trail running requires shoes with excellent grip, durable soles, and stiff construction that prevent excessive foot rotation. Having the right shoes can prevent serious injury including things such as a sprained or broken ankle that will keep you on the couch for weeks.
Safety isn’t all about your feet! Whenever you strenuously exercise, dehydration is a real risk. Signs of dehydration include dizziness, nausea, cramps, dry mouth and rapid heartbeat. Drinking enough water lubricates your joints and muscles while allowing you to perform at your highest level. To make sure you are properly hydrated, drink 15 to 20 ounces of water a few hours before you hit the trail and about 7 to 10 ounces during exercise. Furthermore, drink 8 ounces directly before and after your trail run to ensure safe hydration.
Another thing you should bring with you while trail running is a good first-aid kit. Packing a kit with things such as athletic tape, an irrigation syringe, aspirin, and a rescue whistle ensures you can handle whatever the trail throws at you. Packing a cell phone is another smart idea, but if you are going deep into the woods, you may want a satellite GPS tracker that can locate you in areas where there is no service.
Trail running and races
If you’re an experienced trail runner with thousands of miles under your belt, you may be up for a race this year. Competing is a great way to push yourself both physically and mentally, but the strenuous nature of racing can be dangerous. When training for your race, push harder and go longer than the distance you’ll complete on the actual day. Training hard beforehand will make the actual competition easier, and you’ll be less likely to drop from fatigue. You also want to incorporate strength and flexibility training that teaches your body to support itself in strenuous situations.
Make sure you are properly fueled by carb-loading the week before. Not only does this give you the energy you need to get the race done, but it also helps your body retain water so it is harder to become dehydrated. In addition to the normal safety measures you take when trail running, you may find it useful to protect your knees and ankles with supportive braces. Racing puts extra strain on your joints and the last thing you need is for your legs to give out when you’re close to the finish line.
Making the most mentally & spiritually
One of the best things about trail running is how it allows you to escape the stresses of city life. Running outdoors is a great way to take care of yourself both mentally and spiritually. Many people going through drug or alcohol rehabilitation use it as a method of stress reduction and self-discovery.
To make the most of your trail running, use the time to practice mindfulness and escape the cluttering thoughts that plague you throughout the day. Practicing mindfulness is a great way to reduce overall anxiety in your life and alleviate the physical symptoms that come with it. But that’s not it– mindfulness makes life better overall. It can improve your relationships, boost your performance at work or school, and can even help you reach your weight loss goals.
To tap into the power of the moment while trail running, focus on the breath. Take restoring inhales with strong and controlled exhales. When you focus on your breath, you are able to work your body into a rhythm that your can get lost in. Before you know it, you are totally in the moment and free from the things that cloud your mind otherwise.
When the weather warms up, it’s the perfect time to lace up and hit the trails. Trail running is an amazing full body workout that is as good for your mental health as it is your physical. While trail running is a little riskier than a jog around the block, the right shoes, focus, and preparations can help mitigate those risks. Tapping into that focus is a great way to practice mindfulness, which improves life in various ways.