Why do people like to run the trails (woods)? What is so specific about this activity that gives them that special feeling?


Running through the woods cherishes the soul.
 If you’re stuck in a running rut, and You get bored to continuously run around the neighborhood or You hate the idea to run on treadmill, it is a time to leave the road behind and head to the woods. You don’t need to find the nearest steep ascent, simply find a park and run. Hundred of millions runners around the World have already discovered nature and enjoys running ‘in the wild’, so You are not going to be alone.

Trail running satisfies a ancient need for movement through wildlife. When things spin out of control in an age of modern technology being in the woods is one thing that is for centuries pretty much the same as it always has been. So what does the average road runner have to gain from venturing out into the wilderness?

Advantages that You can benefit from trail running?

First, reduction in injury risks: The soft, uneven surface of the trail minimizes the chance of injuries, strengthens core muscles, and finally makes running more comfortable that on any other surface.
Second, a rush that no other running can give you. Trail running gives You a greatest endorphin release, and make You more connected with nature.

Trail running burns 10% more calories than road running. And also builds different muscles with every step, while a shorter stride strengthens ankles and hips and reduces the impact on joints. Many runners, even at the highest level, incorporate trail running into their training to prevent overuse injuries.
Trail running makes athletes a stronger, happier and truly satisfied runner. Have that all in mind, You should head to woods and give Yourself a change to try it, we are sure that You will make Your mind on trail running, maybe not after the only one workout, and love it the way it deserves.

Trail running will make You feel like a (free) runner. Don’t wait at all, pack Your gear and try it. Here’s what you need to know when hitting the trails, stay safe and discover this wildly relaxing side of running.

Trail gear

While music kits, GPS devices, and heart rate monitors have become must for many runners, technology tends to take away real experience of trail running. Theoretically speaking even a watch is unnecessary to have full enjoyment and get the best from trail running.

Still, there are certain necessities for trail running, some of which require different considerations from running on roads.

  • Shoes: Road shoes are fine for short trail runs. When You decide to do more trail running You should eventually get a pair of trail shoes. They are build with a stronger, protective sole and greater stability than most common running shoes. It is not advisable to run barefoot on such terrain, but You are Your own master and If You think it is a good idea and that it will works for You just do it, and please bring us a feedback.
  • Clothing: The same technical wear that you wear on road running works for trails, but it is advisable to wear something that You don’t mind getting muddy or ripped.
  • Water bottle: If You do not think it is a good idea to drink from streams (rivers, lakes…), then You need to consider carrying a bottle of water with you. A favorite among trail runners is the handheld water bottle that straps to the hand and has additional pouches for things like keys, ID, and food. For longer distances, consider a hydration vest.  There are many popular brands for all trail running options.
  • Headlamp or flashlight: One of the best things about trail running is that You can do it pretty safely at night, without having to worry about cars. But for running at night, a headlamp or flashlight is absolutely necessary. Of course we are not recommending You, especially if You are new to trail running, to run the trails if You do not know the environment and the route. To be safe it is best to run at night in a group.

And don’t forget a towel and a change of clothes, socks, and shoes for afterward. If you’re doing it right, you’ll be wet and dirty by the end of the run.

Advices for compact trail running

Choose a route for the running workout

By far the best way to start trail running is to find a local group of trail junkies and run with them. They’ll know the best trails in your area and help you get started. Search for the trails route (GPX files) on the websites or nearby trail place, or ask some trail runners or join them.

Trail running can be non-technical and technical.
Non-technical trails are concrete, gravel, or dirt roads that are generally easy to handle.
Technical trails are narrow, dirt or rocky paths which are offering variety of challenge that is not easy.

Shorten Your strides.

Trail running is about 20% slower than the road running, on the same particular level of exertion. There are some steep hills, side-to-side movement You need to overcome, and lots of obstacles to deal with. Trail running is most fun when you forget about pace and do what feels good.
By shortening Your stride You will transfer Your weight over Your feet most of the time, what allows you to react rapidly and maintain balance. Trail running improves Your core and stabilizer muscles more than road running.

If necessary walk uphill

As a trail runner You should know that it’s generally more effective to walk up the steep hills then to run it and conserve some of the precious energy to make up time on the downhill.

Always look in front of You as You run

When running in woods you need to pay additional attention to every step you take. Of course it is not suggested to look all the time at Your feet. Enjoy the beautiful nature around You.
Pay attention to obstacles and avoid it. Bring up your feet a little bit higher to avoid barriers. Many falls occurs due to a great confidence. If you can step over a fallen tree, root, or large rock, rather than on it, do it.

Distance between runners

Besides paying attention to the ground in front of You, everyone have to pay attention to a runner ahead. So keep the distance and always be alert not to get crashed into somebody.

Trails are wild

Run with a friend or a group. Bring a map if you’re running a new trail, some of new watches have the ability to put a map of a trails previously downloaded from the web (GPX file). Have a first aid kit in the car, and carry extra food with you for emergencies. Bring along a cell phone or pepper spray if you’re running alone.
You should know the area you’re running—how to deal with the wildlife, when and where hunting takes place, when the sun goes down, and anything else that might pose a danger.

Safety Precautions

Safety is always a concern for new trail runners. The fear of getting lost, experiencing treacherous weather, or encountering animals will keep some people from ever going out on their own.

The chances of something bad happening are very slim, but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist. You should  take appropriate safety precautions before hitting the trail:

  • Tell someone where you’re going and when you plan to return.
  • Take a phone with you if you’re going to be gone for a long period of time.
  • Know the route or carry a map.
  • Don’t run with headphones (or leave at least one ear out) so you can hear what’s going on around you.
  • Carry a backup layer or jacket.
  • Take a little more food and water than you think you will need.
  • Know the wildlife risks, and how to handle a situation if it were to arise.

And whenever possible, run with someone else.

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Trail running (Resourse Wikipedia)

It differs from road running and track running in that it generally takes place on hiking trails, often in mountainous terrain, where there can be much larger ascents and descents. It is difficult to definitively distinguish trail running from cross country running. In general, however, cross country is an IAAF governed discipline that is typically raced over shorter distances (rarely over 12 kilometers), whereas trail running is loosely governed, and run over longer routes. Typically cross country running involves sections across open fields while trail running is usually restricted to loosely surfaced or well worn routes.

Some notable trail races include:

Africa

Asia

Europe

North America

Oceania

🇬🇧 Former member of Serbia Swimming Team and current member of Serbia Triathlon Team, engineer and sports lover.

🇷🇸 Bivši član reprezentacije Srbije u plivanju i reprezentativac Srbije u triatlonu, inženjer i zaljubljenik u sport.

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