Check out a trail’s terrain, elevation, mileage, exposure to sun/wind and how much water you’ll need before you run it. You can also hike a trail before running it to determine if it’s a good fit.
Due to the difference in elevation and terrain, you can’t expect to run the same pace you would on the road. Runners frequently get overconfident going downhill, which can result in falls and injuries.
If you decide to venture out to unchartered trails, try your best to bring someone. And if you’re going alone, give someone a general idea of when you’re leaving and when you expect to get back.
Before you hit the trail, prepare yourself by improving your balance, jumping ability, flexibility and strength. Use a Bosu ball in the gym to improve your balance, and prepare for uneven footing by doing exercises on one foot.
Uneven terrain causes your feet to work in ways you may not have anticipated. So if you run a lot of miles, switch up your footwear every once in a while to allow for pressure on different parts of your feet.
When you’re running on trails, a shorter stride allows you to maintain greater control while conserving energy. The quicker cadence helps you maintain a good pace, which is especially important on technical terrain.
If you’re looking for motivation, look for a race. It doesn’t need to be highly competitive; it can just be a local trail race with friends. It gives you a goal, you’ll take your training more seriously and it can be a fun social experience.
When you’re running, do simple things like avoiding bunching up your shoulders and letting your jaw hang loose. You can even shake out your arms and check yourself every once in a while—it will conserve energy and you’ll feel better.