5 Tips for Trail Running

[00:00:00] It’s finally springtime again. And for people like me, that means we’re heading back to the track and a lot of road running. But within that paradigm, you may be thinking, Oh, I’ve done this so many years. I’ve done this over and over and over. I really like to go and do something different in that thing you should do is trail running. So today, if you’re new to trail running, I want to give you 5 dangerous habits to avoid or stop doing if you’re going to go trail running.

[00:00:39] If you haven’t been with me here before, I’m Jesse Funk. This is a show I called Runner’s High, where we talk about everything running, including track workouts like I talked about in the beginning, or trail running, which is the actual topic of today’s video. So if you like running and you want to know more, subscribe, hit that button over there, a little red button in the corner. Every Tuesday and Thursday, new episodes come out each and every week.

[00:01:02] So we want to talk about trail running because it’s a great break from being on the road, right? And some people make a whole running career of trail. That’s all they do. If that’s you, you probably already know these things, but it’s always good to have safety refreshers, so stick with me for that. But if you’re new to trail running or you’re thinking about, Hey, let’s go out and do this, there are some things you need to take into account.

[00:01:27] And the first thing is make sure that you scope out the trail before. So the bad habit to avoid is not scoping out that trail. You want to know what does it look like? Is there is it a clear path? Is it paved for some reason? Is it woodchips? Is it muddy? Does it have a stream crossing? Are there wildlife in this particular area? Is it maintain, you know, all these different kind of things? You need to be familiar with what you’re looking at.

And the longer the trail is, the harder it is to actually physically scope out. But you can get some idea by being familiar with your area of, I’ll say, the country, but wherever you are being familiar with your area, the wildlife, the climate, those kind of things, what’s going on. 

[00:02:22] Because there are a lot of extra elements that happen on a trail that don’t necessarily happen when we’re going out and we’re running on a sidewalk or on a road. When we’re in the middle of what is essentially human society, there’s lots of comforts. Like if something happens on the side of the road, you’re probably near somebody’s house in an emergency. Somebody is probably nearby. However, if you’re out on a trail somewhere, then you may be by yourself to help yourself out. So scoping out the trail ahead of time is the number one thing you’ve got to do, if you’re going to go out for a trail run.

[00:03:00] The number 2 habit to avoid is not hydrating before you go run. And if you’re going up for a longer run, not bringing some kind of hydration with you. Now, this is something we’ll talk about in another video. As I and we at Solpri are bringing out a new sports drink for personalized hydration for your personal needs. So this is really on my mind lately.

[00:03:24] But when I say hydrate beforehand, that doesn’t necessarily mean go chug a bunch of water like an hour before your run. That may be better than nothing. Not the chugging part, but taking in some. But hydration really started yesterday. So if today I’m going to go run, I needed to have started prepping yesterday or consequently if you’re running tomorrow, then you need to start prepping today. So think about getting hydrated before you go out and run.

[00:03:52] Because being out somewhere, being dehydrated, getting headaches, getting dizzy, having the ill effects of dehydration when you’re out. And again, not necessarily somewhere where somebody may or may not come along with where you are, that’s a bad situation to be in. So when you are properly hydrated beforehand, then you can take care of business. But also the longer your run goes on, the more likely it is you need to bring hydration with you.

[00:04:22] Now I’m the first to say on long runs I probably don’t bring hydration with me. However, I also don’t really do that many trail runs. I keep meaning to fit more in, but just where I live is not super conducive to trail running. I do get some in, but you know, what are you going to do? I live in a city in the heart of the city. You’re going to do a lot of road running. In any case, I have the opportunity where if I needed to stop, there’s probably a shop or a neighbor or something. Somebody nearby, a park with the water fountain where I can get emergency water.

[00:04:59] But if you’re out on the trail, you’ve got to bring it with you. Now, anything under an hour in duration, you’re probably fudge. You’re probably not going to be too bad off, especially if you hydrated beforehand. Started yesterday for today’s run. But if you’re really starting to go out for some mileage and especially if it’s hotter, then you need to bring with you.

Now, one of the sneaky things about long distance runs in the cold is that you actually can still get dehydrated, even though you don’t feel like you’re sweating nearly as much. You actually, in fact, maybe because your body’s trying to keep itself warm and then if you have layers on, you’re starting the layers. You just say, notice that you’re losing all this water.

[00:05:44] So it is important, even if it’s not hot, to bring stuff with you if you’re going out for a longer run. Again, an hour is kind of the line of demarcation for me. You have to decide for you if it’s shorter than that. But anything longer than an hour, I would definitely suggest bringing water with you.

[00:06:01] The third dangerous habit you need to avoid. This is especially pertinent if you’re new, is not planning out your mileage. Now, this is something that you don’t necessarily think about if you haven’t really done much trail running, and that is that you’re going to go slower on the trail than you would on the road, if for nothing else, than the simple fact that the energy return of dirt is going to be less than that of asphalt or cement sidewalk. But more importantly in that.

[00:06:38] Trail terrain varies.

[00:06:40] So not just elevation, but the footing that’s available. It’s all going to slow you down. So if you say like you did that first part, you checked out your trail, you scouted it out and you said, I need to get a mile run in today, so I’m going to run eight miles. This is the loop around whatever trail section. Okay, great. The problem is you’re probably going to go out and run for a longer period of time than you intended. So in some ways, if you’re new to trail running, it’s almost closer to running in snow.

[00:07:14] And you’re like, What are you talking about? You see my other videos? Subscribe. If you see my other videos where I talk about running in snow, I talk about how it slows you down, right? So the purpose of the run and in this case probably as well for most of your long trail runs, is aerobic activity. So we want aerobic fitness. We use Miles as a barometer of how far or how long we’re going to work for. But really, we’re interested in the amount of time that we’re spending in that aerobic state.

So when you’re going up for a new trail run, you can play in an out and back kind of run instead of a loop to get familiar with the area and your rate of running so that you can go out for the duration of time. Did that say eight miles in my example on the road would have taken you in my case, probably going to take about an hour. So I would run one direction on the trail for a half hour turnaround and come back. Not only are you going to get the proper amount of time without misjudging how long you’re going to be out for, but you’re less likely to get lost because you’ve done an out and back. You’re following the exact same path that you took out.

[00:08:27] Do very simple things, like when I’m running in a new area that has trails, maybe you’re taking all right turns or you’re taking all left turns or you’re just going straight or whatever it is. Try to make it as easy on yourself instead of saying it’s it’s a right and then two lefts and then three rights and then, you know, then you have to reverse all of those things. It gets a much more complicated as you go on. So if you keep it simple. Do an out back for a new area. Get used to the amount of time it takes you to run mileage on a trail. Then you’ll be more familiar in set up in the future for more runs without the dangers of physically exhausting yourself farther than you want to.

[00:09:11] Now, this fourth tip actually comes from a guest on another show I do on this channel. The Smart Athlete Podcast comes from Sarah Lavender Smith, the author of The Trail Runner’s Companion. She tells a story in here, and there’s a lot of good things in this book. So you’re going want to check that out and my conversation with her, which I’ll link to at the end of this video. But this this tip comes from her in the book and we discuss it a little bit in the in the conversation I have with her. And that is to the dangerous thing is to not leave breadcrumbs and not leave some kind of trail for somebody to find you or for you to find your way out.

[00:09:51] Be it virtual or physical, some way that somebody knows where you are besides yourself. So it kind of comes in two parts here. Breadcrumbs for yourself, right? That can be. You know, using like GPS waypoints. If you have such a setup, it could be maybe taking photos if you’re bringing your phone with you of certain landmarks along the way so you know where you are. Again, if you do that simple trail thing, then it’s going to make it easier. But the longer, longer you go out, the easier it is to get lost.

[00:10:30] So having some way to have breadcrumbs, Hansel and Gretel style, hopefully not actually carrying a bag of bread because wildlife’s going to eat that. And littering is bad, but finding some way to keep track of where you are so that if you do get turned around, you can go. OK! Let me stop for a minute. Let me back up. What landmarks do I need to see? How do I think I need to get there? And then making your way. That way. But the second part of leaving breadcrumbs, virtual or otherwise, is letting somebody know where you are, that you’re going to be gone for such amount of time and that you’ll be back at about this amount of time.

[00:11:15] You wouldn’t be the first person to disappear on a trail mysteriously. Sometimes people will get hurt and nobody knows where they are or where they’ve gone or where they should be. And that’s part of the story that Sarah shares in the book, kind of a close encounter that her and her husband had on a trail where nobody knew where they were. Nobody would know to come look for them.

So this one is probably the the most serious, but also the most important to know that somebody knows you’re gone and that you should be back at a certain time. Really, it’s probably a good practice for even road running to let people know, Hey, this is where I’m going. Maybe this is my route for the day, this is what I’ll be back so that if anything happens, God forbid that somebody knows they need to come look for you. This isn’t normal, because if something happens, the sooner somebody can get you help, the better off you’re going to be.

[00:12:15] My last dangerous tip you need to avoid, on a little lighter note, is not prepping the right gear you need for your run. There’s a lot of little steps in this. The simplest is simply like trying to avoid chafing, right? So if you have a stream crossing in your long run, well, now you got wet socks. How long are you going to run with those wet socks? You can use an anti chafe balm like something that we produce solpri.com/shop.

[00:12:44] But you could also bring a cheap pair of socks that’s dry if you know, hey, I’m going out for, like an ultra kind of thing. 20, 30, 40 miles. I’m going to be out for a while. If I take the socks off, swap over the one pair can dry while I’m wearing the new pair. That’s prepping your stuff, prepping your gear. But also this is more important for mountainous terrain is weather changes because climate changes happen as you move up and down a mountain.

[00:13:17] So basically as elevation changes, then your temperature is going to change as well. And again, that kind of sneaky cold, it can kind of get up on you where you are underdressed quickly and you don’t realize that you’re underdressed. That’s why ultra runners like Sarah and the many people that I’ve interviewed on Smart Athlete Podcast comes out on Fridays. If you’re on this channel again subscribe, please. 

[00:13:44] Talk about how when they go out for Ultras, you got to bring a lot of gear because you’re probably going to have various kinds of clothes changes throughout a race. It’s this mentality of being prepared for all of these situations that you have to take into these trail runs when you’re one going out for longer and then two going out in a situation where there are going to be various obstacles you’re not going to come across when you’re out on the road.

[00:14:13] Big elevation changes leading to big temperature changes, water stream crossings in any of the things that you might need, like extra sunscreen, a hat and then has a visor or whatever it is you want to do to protect your head and then keep your face from being sunburnt. All these things are more necessary the longer you go, and especially when you’re out by yourself. So those are my five dangerous habits to avoid when out trail running.

[00:14:51] If you follow them and don’t do the things that I suggested or do do the things that I suggested to do and avoid the things not then you should be set. But if you want to know more about trail running again, check out my conversation with Sarah Lavender Smith I had here on the Smart Athlete Podcast.

That link will be coming up here at the end and then you can check out her book, The Trail Runner’s Companion Guide. I’m not paid to sell this book,  just as a disclaimer. I think it is a wonderful resource for people who want to get into running period. But definitely if you want to get into trail running, there’s a lot of great tips from somebody who’s very experienced at the sport. So check out that conversation with Sarah and I’ll see you next time on the next episode of Runner’s High.

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