Running doesn’t have to always be on the flat and through your local streets. It’s much more fun and engaging when you venture off-road...
It’s time to get down and dirty with a bit of Trail Running….
Trail running is basically obstacle-course running, romping over rocks, roots, mud and grass. It can be technically more demanding with twisty, narrow and hilly terrain where footing can be dicey. You need to choose your line and make split-second decisions to manoeuvre your body as you move along.
If you’re new to trail running it will take time to transform from stumblebum to trail dancer, but you will increase your running technique becoming a more efficient runner and reduce your chances of injury.
Not surprisingly, cross training helps make you a better runner. Getting off road is important, but too much of a good thing can lead to overuse injuries. Replace some of those runs with the activities below to boost strength, endurance, balance and flexibility.
Resistance training: You may prefer weight training or old-school staples like push-ups, sit-ups, crunches and planks, anything that strengthens your core will create a strong body for all your running, where balance is key. Strength exercises also help improve endurance.
Carrying out these types of exercises at least 1-2 times a week will be the most effective, varying them occasionally, as your body adapts to repetitive tasks and gets diminishing value from the same exercise over time.
Yoga: It’s primary benefit is improved balance, but yoga also improves your flexibility and body awareness. Start by signing up for a weekly class or following an app. (downdog is the one I use)
Stretching: Hill work, switchbacks and sudden adjustments in stride to ensure a solid landing spot all require excellent flexibility. It’s therefore worth extending the amount of time you currently stretch, and to add some additional stretches to your routine.
It's important, too, for you to do longer stretching after your body is already warmed up, say at the end of a run. Any stretching prior to a run should be light and dynamic stretching (basically with movement and for a maximum of 10 seconds per stretch)
Getting Out On The Trails…
This is where the fun begins and you take your running to another level. Here’s a few tips so you can enjoy the trails to the max!
Keep your eyes scanning the trail ahead of you for obstacles. Resist looking down at your feet and if you want to take in the scenery, then slow down or stop.
Shortening your stride can make you more agile, allowing you to react quicker to obstacles. You’ll also be able to lengthen a single stride when needed—to clear a rock or muddy patch, for example. (by continually taking long strides, you forfeit the amount of “emergency” extension you have available.)
Hold your shoulders straight, align them with your back and lean your whole body slightly forward from your ankles as you run. Hunched shoulders put stress on your back and rob your lungs of inflation space. They are also a sign you’re too tense, so take a moment to relax them.
Whilst running, check your running posture periodically. Are you hunched over? Straighten up. Are your shoulders caving forward? Roll them back.
Keep your hands relaxed. Orient your arms so they are perpendicular to your torso, rather than pumping diagonally across it. Your hand should lightly graze the side of your running shorts on each swing.
Having an efficient swing motion helps you build forward and upward momentum through your entire torso, rather than relying solely on your legs.
Winging out your elbows to improve your control while speeding down steep, rocky trails and will hugely aid with balance.
Landing Mid-Fore Foot maximizes balance and minimizes injury.
Staying over your centre of gravity, rather than behind it, helps you maintain balance and control your speed on descents. Landing on your heels (heel striking), moves your body position behind your centre of gravity and decreases your ability to balance.
Note: that pain and injury can also result from changing to a different foot strike. So pay careful attention to how your body feels and go slowly with any stride changes.
RUNNING UP HILL!!
When you’re climbing steep hills, shorter, quicker strides will be easier on your cardio system. They’ll also help you avoid strains to your Achilles’ tendons, hamstrings, calves and glutes.
On sustained hills, speed hiking is often more efficient than trying to keep up a running cadence. This is especially true on a longer run or race, where preserving your endurance is key. With practice, you can maintain almost the same pace with a much lower energy output.
You now have no excuses to get off road and enjoy your running in differing environments.
Look out for our Introduction to Trail Running events starting in 2019, where we will be taking you out onto the trails, practicing posture, foot landing, balance and basic navigation.... PLUS you will also receive your own pair of trail running shoes so that you have the right gear aswell as the knowledge to get out there!
(please get in touch if this is something you would be interested in and we'll let you know when the first event is ready to book)
Until next time,
Rich ‘just trailing along’ at Triactive
Triathlon | Running | Adventure