6 Runner Approved Tips to Start Running Trails Today
There’s no better time than the present to join the more than 8 million Americans who are crazy about trail running. Massachusetts in May has the perfect weather (a daytime average of 71 degrees F), and Central Massachusetts is littered with open space gems to explore.
Whether you’re an experienced marathoner or a couch potato following doctor’s orders to get active, trail running requires minimal gear and delivers big rewards. As avid runners ourselves, we at Central Massachusetts Podiatry speak (and write) from experience.
We will go through six basic tips to ensure your adventure is safe, as well as fun, so you can start trail running today.
Keep scrolling down to learn about the benefits of trail running.
- Research your trail, so you know the terrain and distance you’ll be running. Find out from friends (or ask the Docs) for suggested trails close to home or a destination run like Wachusett mountain. For those with concerns about “weak ankles” or if you have a history of falling, starting off on fire roads (Douglas State Park, Wachusett, Leominster State Forest, West Boylston Reservoir, Rutland State Park) or rail trails (West Boylston, Rutland, Sterling) is a safer introduction. Buddy up with friends or family for safety.
- Watch your step. Stop and enjoy the views, but while running keep your eyes in the direction you are traveling if you want to avoid tripping over roots, rocks, and even critters.
- Bring water, either in hydration packs, a hydration vest, or water bottles (best carried in a waist pack). You should have 6-8 oz for every 20 minutes you run or 20 oz an hour as a baseline. Using an electrolyte mix if the weather is hot or you have a tendency to sweat is strongly encouraged. Hydration packs and waist packs with bottle holders can be found at local running stores (Sneakerama , PR Running, Marathon Sports and online with Ultimate Direction, Nathan and Camelbak.
- Wear moisture-wicking clothing. Instead of slow-to-dry cotton or wool, you’ll want to stick with shirts, shorts, and socks made of synthetic materials.
- Wear sunscreen of at least 30 SPF and hats while considering covering your ears! Outdoor Research and many other companies make clothing with SPF protection.
- Invest in trail running shoes. They’re thicker, sturdier, and offer better traction and protection than regular running shoes as well as many that incorporate rock plates in the sole to protect the bottom of your feet from small rocks and stumps. Many trail shoes have connectors built in for gaiters, which prevent sand, stones and sticks from slipping inside the shoe while moving. Check out this post about choosing the best trail running shoes.
Did we talk about the benefits?
Trail running is good medicine for the body, mind, and soul.
- Is easier on your joints and tendons. The lower impact surfaces of dirt, wood chips, grass, and gravel, versus asphalt, minimize shin splints, arthritis, and other joint issues.
- Builds core, leg, and ankle strength. Rugged surfaces exercise muscles, tendons, and ligaments differently than running on paved streets or a treadmill. Trail running also increases cardiovascular capacity and strengthens your quads, glutes, calves, and core. Additionally, having to navigate rocks and roots puts your balance to the test. In short, it works the entire body, can have significant variability of terrain which will minimize overload of any one particular body part that may be affected by “overuse” injuries and make you more bulletproof from injuries (just don’t fall and make new injuries).
- Offers psychological benefits. You’ll bond with the sights and smells of nature, plus enjoy better air quality and less noise than on city or suburban streets. “Green exercise” reduces stress, restores mental fatigue, and improves mood, according to a study published in the journal Extreme Physiology & Medicine.
I hope we’ve convinced you to give trail running a try. Trail running rocks!
Read also: Choosing the best trail running shoes.
Dr. Neil Feldman
Dr. Neil Feldman is a Podiatrist at Central Massachusetts Podiatry, in Worcester and Westborough. As an ultramarathoner, runner and triathlete, he loves to help his patients remain consistent with their regular activities, assist in getting patients back to health and dedicates himself to patients achieving their goal events and races from walking the Camino de Santiago, to a first 5k run, to Ironman to a 250 mile run…and yes, that’s a thing!!