Going for a jog in forests, scaling mountains, or traversing deserts can be excitingly exhilarating…or really overwhelming. For those not familiar with the wilder areas of the environment, the concept of running on a track while in a secluded wilderness can be intimidating.
For those accustomed to running on roads, even a path through an urban park might cause some apprehension.
One of the best methods to eliminate the fright of off-road running is to make certain you’re implementing all the necessary precautions to stay safe. Even if you’re not scared of anything lurking in the shadows of the evergreens, you should still take caution when running along trails, since they tend to be more secluded and isolated than if you were running in an urban area.
Important Trail Running Safety Tips
To be candid, virtually any enjoyment or thrilling activity in life carries with it some level of risk. Trail running is no different. One could encounter a variety of issues when venturing onto a trail, ranging from stumbling on a root to being trapped in a storm above the tree line. But, by following these trail running safety tips, you’ll help minimize the risks of danger:
Know Your Trails (Or Carry A Map!)
As much as I am an enthusiast for escapades, becoming lost could be a hazard to one’s life in no time. Depending on your environment, the trail you jog on may be a quick route around a small woodland area in the center of a huge metropolitan city. If you become lost while walking on those paths, you most likely won’t have to wait too long before finding your way back to civilization.
For some, a system of pathways can cover a distance of dozens to hundreds of miles. Pathways can tightly encircle a vast number of unaltered rural, wooded, or desert areas. Making an incorrect turn or losing one’s way in these situations could potentially be a major blunder.
No matter how isolated the path you are running is, it is beneficial to get to know the trails you are running on. Research your routes beforehand. If you don’t have prior knowledge of the path you are running on, make certain to have a map with you (and know how to interpret it).
Take a cell phone or other GPS-capable gadget with you, yet don’t totally rely on it, since it is possible for technology and signal reception to not work properly.
Tell Someone Where You Are Going (And When You Plan To Return)
I am almost 40 years of age, I have 2 growing youngsters, and I am not worried to resemble a concerned parent when I state, “BE SURE TO LEAVE A MESSAGE BEFORE YOU DEPART!”
Make sure to let someone know your destination before you leave, and yes, drop a note at home if needed. Provide an expected time of arrival in addition to the place you are going. This way, people will be aware of when they can anticipate your return. In an event of an emergency, if you do not return, this will provide clues to first responders as to where they can begin searching for you.
If you’re going off on long trips into isolated regions, it may be a good idea to get a gadget such as the Garmin InReach. It’s a satellite GPS that allows your family and friends to monitor your location and gives you the capacity to ask for assistance in even the farthest-out places.
Should You Run Alone?
I would advise not to discourage running alone on a path. Lots of people might say it, but I won’t be the one to do so. Sometimes it can be a great feeling to go running by yourself, and it can even act as a type of therapeutic release. Therefore, I understand the need to sometimes go on a hike alone.
If it is an option, it is advisable to jog with another person or a group. Safety in numbers!
Check The Weather Before You Go
Before starting your jog, look at the local weather report, particularly if you’re going to be away from civilization, at a higher altitude or in unmaintained lands.
In general, getting stuck in a storm is often irritating. In certain circumstances, it can become risky, especially if you are on a path where you have limited access to a safe place. A blizzard of whiteout conditions at the tree line of a mountain, a thunderstorm on an open plain, a sudden flood in the desert…these scenarios can come about quickly and be fatal. Even a heavy rain can rapidly cause the air to become cold, making it so you can barely make it to your vehicle while shaking from the cold weather.
It shouldn’t be taken as a sign that one should not go running in unfavorable weather conditions. I am a great fan of the enjoyable experience of running in a summer rainstorm. This is a reminder to be aware of potential difficulties and be ready for them.
Don’t Forget To Double Check Sunrise & Sunset Times
Remember to verify both the sunrise and sunset times along with consulting the weather when you’re planning something. The darkness can settle in rapidly, particularly in trails located deep inside a wooded forest. If you are going to be outside after nightfall, make sure to bring your flashlights!
Wear Appropriate & Protective Gear
Yes, it is possible for you to use any kind of running attire on a trail, but usually using items specifically designed for the trail will lead to a more satisfactory experience. Here are a couple of trail-specific gear suggestions to keep in mind:
Trail Running Shoes
Investing in the proper footwear is an important factor in making your trail running experience enjoyable when you are first starting. Running shoes that are genuine can help your feet stay comfy as well as stay away from any harm. We’re not recommending that you purchase the most costly trail running shoes, but we do suggest getting a basic pair of running shoes regardless.
We highly advise going to a running shoe store to get your feet checked and sized when buying your first pair of shoes for the best possible fit. You should make sure to select shoes that are well suited for your feet since everybody’s feet are distinct.
Two of our favorite shoes for trail running are Altras, HOKA, and Scarpa. At the end of this article, you can find some additional suggested trail running shoes.
Running shoes tailored to trails are crafted with the intention of providing increased traction on rough paths and keeping you stable on slick mud or sliding stones. Additionally, they are usually constructed with hardier fabrics to give you protection when encountering debris like stones, sticks, or other objects while hiking.
Putting on lengthy socks or leg coverings will help stop particles from entering your socks. They can also be of assistance in shielding you from tree limbs, hazardous vegetation, and bug bites (such as ticks), particularly when the path is a bit thick or not properly managed.
Make sure to dress in many layers if you are expecting to encounter big changes in temperature due to the presence of trees and altitude differences. Opt for clothes that can be easily added or removed.
Finally, dress in vivid hues so you stand out to other joggers, bikers, or even hunters.
Bring the Right Trail Running Gear
When you are beginning, it is necessary to have the appropriate equipment with you when you go walking on the path. Below are three basic items you will want to have before you set out on any trial run:
- Running Backpack / Hydration is super important while trail running, so you will want to make sure you have a comfortable way to carry water. This running backpack by Osprey is lightweight and breathable and easily adjusts to fit your body. It also allows you to carry other necessities along the route (read more about this below).
- Ultra-light Running Socks / One of the best ways to prevent blisters (a common side effect of trail running) is to wear proper socks that help keep your feet from rubbing and moisture at bay.
- Lightweight Workout Shorts / A good pair of running shorts doesn’t get in your way – luckily this pair has a nice stretchy waistband and super soft breathable fabric.
For trail running, you’ll probably be some distance from others and any help. Therefore, it’s important to have all the supplies you’ll need in case of an incident (inclement weather, getting lost, injury, etc.). Consequently, in addition to the items mentioned, it is essential to take water, some snacks, an extra item of clothing, a basic medical kit, and a head torch with you before going for a trail run. It might be a good idea to carry your cell phone while going on your run – especially if you’re running somewhere unfamiliar or in a more wilderness-like terrain.
Warm Up Your Legs
It is wise to not just rush right into things without taking any time to get prepared. Taking a few moments to stretch and loosen up your body before you begin to jog is usually recommended. Beginning the workout could involve anything from two leg stretches known as high knees and butt kicks to just taking a short walk.
One of our favorite ways to start off is by performing a couple of leg swings; these involve crossing one leg in front of the other, and then swinging both legs out to the side and back. If our legs are feeling sore or are not very limber from being stationary for a while, we might want to consider stretching out with some movements such as high knee stretches, bringing our knees up to our chest, and incorporating walking lunges into our routine.
Find Trails That Fit Your Fitness
When you commence trail running, it’s essential that you recognize your capacity and always opt for routes which are not too challenging. It can be extremely discouraging and demanding to gain stamina for running on a trail that is highly intricate and demanding.
We recommend beginning with a path that has no steep inclines, is pleasant to look at (which can help to keep you distracted), not too rugged (this can aid your body in becoming familiar to running on softer surfaces than asphalt), and quite popular. Beginning your trail running journey on a route that is cheerful, picturesque, and not too challenging will make you more likely to maintain the activity over the long haul than if you immediately attempt trails that are physically and mentally demanding.
A great technique for locating paths that fall into the “easy” classification is to examine websites like Alltrails. You have the ability to locate trails based on the factors of length, challenge, elevation increase, path style, and the sort of view desired.
Always Keep an Eye Ahead
It is essential to pay attention while running on trails as they may be more treacherous than roads, so always look ahead of you. Focusing intently on the trail a few feet ahead of you will help you to avoid stumbling over roots, rocks, or wet slippery spots that are often encountered on paths.
By virtue of its more daring quality, trail running engages significantly more muscles than running on asphalt. You must devote a lot of attention to not stumbling or losing your balance, which mentally involves you just as much as it physically does. This can then result in a decrease in stress and anxiety, as well as an overall contentment.
It is important to note, that because of the uneven surfaces that often accompany trail running, it is unrealistic to expect your speed and performance to match that of running on a flat, even surface like a running path or bike trail. Don’t be too hard on yourself if you find yourself moving a bit slower or having to take a break now and then. Though both varieties of running — road running and trail running — involve the same activity, they should not be considered identical and thus not judged in the same manner.