Hit the Trail! (Become a trail runner)


Challenge yourself and unleash your inner animal.

As long as you’re game to embrace a little mud in your face, you too can be a trail runner.
Besides offering a refreshing break for both body and mind, trails are less physically punishing that their concrete counterparts. Anyone can participate.


Begin by mastering groomer bike paths, dirt roads, and trails that offer soft, flat surfaces with convenient mile markers for pacing. The parallel foot paths and grassy flats on the Sammamish River Trail (14 paves miles) offer a great place to begin testing your legs. For trail ideas, visit railstotrails.org or trails.com.
Be conservative in increasing the intensity of your speed, incline, or duration, giving your body time to adapt and minimize your risk of injury.
Once you’ve mastered the flats, challenged yourself by adding in some elevation gains and technical trails. Roots, rocks, potholes, and steep trails create a challenging obstacle course that demands core stability, balance, responsiveness and agility.


Uphill Power: More experiences trail runners add uphill repeats to their routine. Wearing a weighted hydration pack during these can be an effective way to build core and leg strength while pushing your workout to a higher intensity. It allows you to hydrate as you climb and lightens your load for descent.
Downhill Techniques: Practice your downhill running with as much focus as your uphill, learning to let go of your fear in order to get your balanced dialed in.
Performing repeats on a fairly open and moderately steep section will help build your confidence. Shorten your strides so that your feet stay under your center of mass and, if necessary, use a z-patterned foot strike of tackling back and forth on the trail in order to slow down instead of bracing your quads.
Keep your eyes about 12 feet in front of you, scanning your oath and collecting information to be better prepared.


Trail runners often require more recovery time between workouts because they recruit more muscles to stabilize the body while moving over uneven terrain. For active muscle recovery, include several flat, easy trails between those more challenging, hilly trail runs.
Typically, your running pace will differ from the road to the trail. If five miles at a seven-minute mile pace feels easy and comfortable on the road, the same distance in a trail may take tice as long. Given the varied terrain and rolling topography of most trails, gauge your workout on a basis of time rather than pace.
Use the service at the club to create a solid, more injury-proof body. Meet with a personal trainer to develop a program specifically designed for train running. It will ensure single-leg strength, stability, and balance, so that when you land on the trail, one foot at a time, your body will be ready for the impact.
Cross training is crucial as well. Cycling, mountain biking, and swimming are all effective ways to enhance the leg, core, and lower back strength you’ll need to be agile and balance.


Familiarize yourself with new trail maps or guidebooks. Learn how to use a map and compass if you’re going out on a trail with more than one route. TO avoid getting lost, stay on the marked trails, make mental notes of trail junctions and landmarks, and glance behind you frequently so that you’ll recognize the trail on your way back. It’s also wise to carry a cell phone and inform someone of your route and return time.


Originally from PRO Pulse May-June 2010
By Alaina Sawava

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