Running Off the Beaten Path

Trail running is an exhilarating experience and a great workout! Even though trail running is an awesome activity, especially if you are tired of hitting the same old pavement around your neighborhood, there are some things you’ll need to keep in mind. Running off the beaten path is much different than road running, which provides new opportunities for injury if you aren’t careful. Although when done right, trail running will improve balance, strength, and coordination. The list below highlights some of the fundamentals for you to keep in mind if you’re setting out on the trails for the first time.

Be Safe

This is probably the most important tip you can receive about trail running. Running in new environments always comes with unforeseen circumstances, but trail running is different for quite a few reasons. Running out in the wilderness is just that – running in the wilderness. With that comes new dangers like critters, poison ivy, and unpredictable terrain. Be aware of your surroundings at all times. Additionally, bring a friend along for a run when possible, but if that’s not an option, be sure to let someone know where you’re headed.

Get the Gear

If you’re serious about trail running, invest in some quality gear to make your life easier. A good pair of trail running shoes will go a long way. They will differ from your normal road running kicks because trail shoes offer a lower heel profile to reduce the risk of ankle rolling. The also provide much needed support. You’ll also want to think about bringing a hat, sunglasses, and lathering up with sunscreen. Finally, don’t forget a good pair of gaiters to go over the top of your shoe to keep dirt, mud, and other debris out.

Time it Out

If you’ve been running regularly, you may be used to running for mileage. At least in the beginning, run with a designated time in mind rather than mileage. The off road terrain will give you a different, and often slower, pace than what you may be used to. This is okay and totally normal! Trail running happens at a slower pace, so don’t find yourself out in the woods longer than you expected because you haven’t hit your mileage yet.


Bring water with you in order to stay hydrated. There are many different options from the handheld water bottle to a hydration backpack – whatever you prefer is fine, as long as you bring it! Replacing the fluids you lose on a hard run is crucial to your stamina while running and gives you a head start on recovery.

Take Care of Yourself

Speaking of recovery, take care of yourself. Trail running imparts different recovery challenges than what you may be used to. You can feel the effects of a challenging road run. You probably won’t have the same body awareness with trail runs due to the more forgiving terrain. In the beginning, take it easy and replace one road run with a trail run. Then depending on how your body reacts to the new beating you’re giving it, you can replace more road runs with trail runs.

Enjoy Yourself

I can’t forget to include this as a tip. Trail running is a thrilling way to rejuvenate your training or even a great way to kick your running passion back into high gear. No matter what reason you’ve decided to take up trail running for, enjoy it. You will see stunning scenery and gain a whole new appreciation for the land. You might even develop a renewed appreciation for the predictability of a road run.