Five Lessons You Need To Learn Before You Start Trail Running

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Trail running is becoming increasingly popular in South Africa, with a host of trails in and around all our cities.

If you love the outdoors further than just your front door, and love running, trail running might be an ideal activity to try.

Trail running is an excellent challenge; from forcing you to think quickly on your feet, to needing more stamina than the average road run. We have some great lessons to learn before you tackle it head on.

1)      Prepare for the elements anyway you can

Trail running is in the heart of the outdoors. No longer does going for a run mean just outside in your neighbourhood. A hot day in your neighbourhood can be sweltering on a rocky terrain mountainside, so it’s a good idea to head out anytime you can. Any chance you get to run off the road and on dirt, grass, or rock, you should take. Running in the intense heat of summer, for example, will help prepare your body to deal with less-than-ideal running conditions too.

2)      Make sure you have the right gear

Trail running is more challenging, but also more work and a higher risk of injury, especially if you’re wearing the wrong gear. It's incredibly important to have good running shoes—but even more so when it comes to trail running. You may think you can get by with running shoes you already have, but it's absolutely vital to wear proper trail shoes with a grip that will help you safely glide over rocks, boulders, hills, grass, and just about every type of terrain you can imagine.

3)      Nutrition is important

Because your body is navigating new terrain, various elements in your body are working harder, and slightly differently too. This means needing the right nutrition to feed those elements. Running 20kms on a road requires good nutrition and hydration, but running 20kms on a trail with elevation and terrain means your body is working harder, for longer.

4)      Pace yourself

On a trail run, it can be incredibly tempting to enjoy the view, but you need to keep an eye on the ground and on your pace often. You may easily, and without blame, want to run a trail at your normal pace, but it’s important to take into account the elevation, the terrain and the down hills. Drastic ascents can deplete your energy, so try to stay reserved on the uphill and walk if you need to. Planting your feet wide on either side of the trail and avoid the centre of narrow chutes can help your pace and stability.

5)      Push to the finish line and DON’T SKIP RECOVERY

After 3+ hours on a trail run, we completely get that you’d be desperate to finish. Don’t slow your pace too much or your recovery will take more out of you. Post-race recovery is huge, so don't skip this step. Make sure you hydrate with an electrolyte drink, stretch, foam roll, take an ice bath and then a warm bath to relax your muscles. Once you’ve ticked that list, make sure you put back all the healthy calories you lost so that your body can recover properly.

 Read more from our Your Body blogs.

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