Nothing prepares you for a mountain like training on a mountain.
Running is a great form of training, but sometimes you need to practice how you play. Since you are often hunting in steep, varying terrain, it only makes sense to train in the same type of terrain. Additionally, trail running is a lot of fun and a very nice change from the norm.
Trail Running Basics
Here are a few tips for getting into trail running:
Running on a trail is not like running on pavement
Running on pavement is smooth with gradual grades and easy turns. Running on a trail has drastic changes in footing, sharp turns, drop-offs, and inclines, and changing surface materials. Because of this, your pace will need to be markedly slower at the onset until you get more comfortable off the beaten path.
Safety is the most important thing
Nothing is more important than safety when training. When you are running on a trail, a slip and fall can be disastrous. Be sure to wear proper attire and be very attentive to your surroundings.
Get a good pair of trail running shoes
Good shoes are worth their weight in gold on a trail. Do not go cheap on trail shoes; spend the money to get quality shoes that will be safe, durable, and enjoyable to run in. Good trail shoes will have a larger cushioned sole, defined lugs on the bottom of the sole, and will be made of durable fabrics. If you aren’t sure what to wear, go to your local running shoe store and have them give you some input.
Enjoy the scenery
Trail running is great not only because of the variety in workout but also because of the change in scenery. Enjoy the view and take in the unique aspects of running in the wilderness.
Take it easy at first
Do not worry about your pace right away. Take it nice and slow your first few times out to get your legs and core accustomed to running on a trail. Once you are comfortable, then slowly start to increase your pace each time.
Keep water on you when you run
Since safety is number one, carry water with you as running on a trail often does not allow for access to a water fountain or faucet. Either carry a water bottle or wear a hydration pack while you run.
Trail Running Workout
You could just pick a trail and jog at a constant pace and that would be completely fine. However, if you find yourself wanting to change things up in a big way, here are some different techniques to incorporate over the course of your trail run:
Find a hill (as gradual or as steep as you’d like) and run repeats on the hill, running up as fast as you safely can and then slowly jogging/walking down (depending on the angle of the hill). Do this 6-10 times depending on the length and grade of the hill.
Fartlek training is very effective for building endurance. The basic idea behind the Fartlek technique is long intervals instead of short one. For example, instead of just running at an 8-minute mile pace for 3 miles, you would run 1 mile at an 8-minute pace, mile 2 at a 7-minute pace, and mile 3 at an 8-minute pace again. The boost in pace will be taxing on your cardiovascular system, but it will help to build long term endurance and will help to improve your overall running pace.
If you have a timer on your watch or your phone, then do short intervals as you run. Go faster for 30-sconds and then jog for 90-second; or 1-minute fast pace and 2 minute slow. Regardless of the duration of each, incorporating short bursts of increased pace will help to boost hormone levels which are key to burning fat, building endurance, and improving in your cardio level. Again, the key here is to remain safe at all times. Don’t go so fast that you are no longer sure footed. Falling down at a dead sprint on a trail is not a fun experience.
If you have been growing bored on the sidewalk or street, spend sometime off of the road and run some trails. Not only will it improve your fitness, it will offer you views and time in the outdoors that you otherwise would not have been able to enjoy.