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Tips for Trail Runners

Tips for Trail Runners

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Updated May 07, 2010

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Trail running is a great way for runners to break the boredom of daily training runs and build some new running skills at the same time. Here are a few tips for trail runners to make a transition to trail running more comfortable.

Build Base Fitness

Before you hit the trails of your local parks or mountains, you should have a good base of fitness. Trail running is a bit more effort than running on flat, smooth pavement, and in order to be able to run trails for more than a few minutes, you should have a base of endurance, be able to run nonstop for thirty minutes, and have completed about a month's worth of interval training workouts -- about two high-intensity interval sessions per week for four weeks.

Test Your Risk for Ankle Sprains

Researchers have found that a simple screening assessment may help predict which athletes may be more likely to have an ankle injury. Because ankle sprains are one of the most common trail running injuries, it's a good idea to take this assessment before you hit the trails. If you don't pass the test, you can use the recommended training routine to improve your ankle stability. You may also want to begin your trail running on smooth trails, and work on your balance and proprioception for a bit longer before attempting uneven trails.

Build Balance and Proprioception

Trails can be smooth and flat or full of roots, rocks and ruts. To avoid injury on this type of trail requires strong feet and ankles, good balance and the ability to react. You can develop your proprioceptive abilities and body awareness by practicing dynamic balance exercises or using balance and proprioception training products such as wobble boards, foam rollers and other stability training aids.

Build Core Strength

Constantly maintaining your balance and momentum while running on uneven, undulating terrain requires a strong yet flexible core to help control movement and shift body weight to move in any direction. If you run on trails, try to do a core-strengthening workout two to three times per week.

Consider Trail Running Shoes

Although you can run on trails in any running shoe that fits you well, it's helpful to use a shoe specifically designed for trail running. These sturdy off-road trainers have added traction, stability and durability. The thick, aggressive tread helps maintain contact with the trail and the extra waterproofing helps keep your feet dry in wet trail conditions.

Bring Enough Food & Water

Trail running requires the right fuel. Unless your workout is less then 20 minutes, you'll want to make sure you have a water stop planned or carry a hydration pack or water bottle with you. If you have a long trail running session, bringing some easy-to-carry nutrition is essential. Some runners have good results with basic trail mix, an energy bar or gel or a banana, but it's a good idea to try different things to find what works best for you.

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