Our race’s include trails.
Beautiful trails. Epic trail.
But tough trails.
There are sections of wilderness where you’ll be in the woods for intervals up to a mile. Or more.
There might be a clear trail at your feet. Or there might just be ribbons leading you through the woods.
Just remember, your mind is the most important piece of train running gear.
Experience is your greatest teacher.
But to start any new endeavor, begin with sound principles to guide you.
Here are 4 tried and true strategies to go from tame and sheltered treadmill or road runner into a trail warrior. By adjusting your mindset, you can maximize your rail running experience and avoid certain pitfalls.
Tip # 1: Prepare to Go Slow
The pace you set on the road is faster than what you can do on a trail. Always.
Often during trails runs we get frustrated with ourselves. It’s as if we are not keeping up with our expectations of ourselves as ‘runners’.
But our trail paces are really different than our road paces. Say it to yourself: trail running is much slower than road running.
If you are watching your GPS pace on your cell, trying to compare how you feel to paces you’ve set on the road, then stop. You’ll only get frustrated.
During trail running, sometimes it might take you 15-20 minutes to navigate 1 mile of trail. Sometimes more. Especially depending on how tired you are.
When I’m ‘running’ trails, I’m mentally OK with going half the speed I might do on the road.
There is a lot of walking in trail running. Remember that.
Tip #2: Prepare to get Dirty
This is psychological as much as physical.
Leave your gym clothes and gym shoes at home, and leave your normal mentality there, too.
Now that the woods are your gym, you are going where dirt is the norm. So have the clothes and footwear that you are 100% comfortable having immersed in mud, even if you don’t plan on it.
Especially regarding your shoes. These are your ‘trail shoes’. You need to avoid any mental cramps you mind have about getting your pristine kicks a bit dirty.
Trail shoes can just be old shoes. That’s cool. Especially if you are just starting.
The point is that once you just own that your shoes will get covered in mud, you can have a much better trail experience.
Don’t be the person tiptoeing around outside. Run without fear.
Tip #3 Prepare to Be Present
Be in the present moment.
Much of training is automated. When running on treadmills or roads we tend to check out. It’s part of the fun sometimes; our way to escape from the stresses of the day. We daydream about the past and future instead of being actively aware of our present.
But even just a brief bit of inattention in trail running can lead to rolled ankles and other injuries. Staying in the moment will keep you from wandering off track and getting lost.
Embrace the many different ways you will have to move your body. Embrace the obstacles and details your find before you. Be present for the experience and you’ll not only enjoy it more, you’ll be safer and more successful.
Tip #4: Prepare To Carry Gear
Don’t die. That is the ultimate goal of trail running.
If you hit your pace or your mileage, kudos to you. But the real aim is getting home safe.
So you need to be cool with carrying stuff and preparing more than road running, especially if you are going out for long distances.
When running into the woods keep 5 things in mind: food, water, thermal regulation, navigation, and first aid. You want to keep the stuff on you that will keep you from dying. You never know when something might happen that will keep you out on the trails longer than you intended.
So be prepared to carry stuff. It’s just par for the course. Experiment with backpacks and fanny packs, or just get used to holding some supplies in your hands as you run.