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5 tips for getting started on the trail

So you want to start trail running?

You have “done the tour” of 10 km, semi-finals and other marathons. You want to combine getting back into shape with discovering nature. You have finally given in to the call of your office colleague who has been extolling the virtues of trail running for years.

Whatever your (good) reason for getting started, trail running requires a minimum of preparation and precautions.

Here are 5 tips from our experts to get you started on the trail.

Starting the trail: our advice

Adapt your equipment

If your test gallop takes place on simple unpaved roads, you should go the distance without too much problem with your usual running gear . But if you venture on more uneven paths, encountering rocks, roots, broken branches and muddy paths, you will quickly feel the need to invest in a pair of suitable shoes.

Trail shoes are generally more sturdy than “classic” running shoes. Some go so far as to incorporate semi-rigid plates to protect the foot from debris or sharp rocks. Higher than their “road” counterparts, trail shoes are also reinforced at the heel. Two characteristics which provide better stability and therefore prevention of ankle twisting on uneven terrain. The more grippy sole promotes grip on slippery surfaces as well as traction on climbs.

In trail running, you cannot count on public lighting during races that start or end in the dark. As a result, the headlight is often part of the basic equipment, just like the GPS watch, which avoids being trapped by approximate markings. Depending on the season, an anti-mosquito spray can also save you a lot of inconvenience.

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Anticipate the pitfalls of the terrain

You understood: the terrain is one of the major differences between trail running and road running. There is therefore reason to anticipate to avoid pitfalls.

To do this, keep a minimum distance from the runners in front of you. Continuously observe the terrain that covers this safety distance. If you spot an obstacle, pay attention to your feet and make sure you do what is necessary to avoid said obstacle. Don't be afraid to slow down your pace a little and lift your foot a little higher than you think necessary. When you start trail running, it is better to be extra vigilant: complacency can be the cause of nasty falls. Without forgetting that fatigue, lack of light or the slippery appearance of the ground can also influence the approach or perception of an obstacle.

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Priority on safety

On the road, in the event of a problem, there will always be a house to ask for help, or a passerby to help you.

The trail, by definition, will take you along side paths, with little or no traffic. Never go training alone without preparing your itinerary. Tell a loved one, as precisely as possible, where you intend to go. Finding yourself alone, injured, in the middle of hostile nature, is too extreme an expression of the notion of “freedom” with which we often associate trail running…

Still related to this feeling of freedom, you might be tempted to leave your phone at home, to be sure not to be disturbed. On the contrary, we advise you to always carry it, ensuring that you have a sufficient battery level to be able to call for help in the event of an accident, or activate the GPS function if you get lost.

Adopt good reflexes

If it is mainly habit that will allow you to refine your technique, here are some tips that will allow you to better manage your first outings as a beginner trailer:

  • Take a short stride. By keeping your feet close to your center of gravity, you will maintain better balance on uneven terrain.
  • When the road rises, shorten your stride further. Maintain your pace by opting for short, cadenced steps.
  • Keep your back straight, even when going up or down. The reflex is to lean forward when it goes up – which has the negative effect of reducing breathing capacity. The other reflex – leaning backwards on descents – causes tension on the muscles and ligaments and can therefore be a source of injury.
  • Accept the idea of ​​walking. In trail running, there are certain passages where running is simply impossible. Walking is an integral part of the discipline.

Among the other good practices to adopt when you start trail running, we also find what we can call etiquette : these unwritten rules but which allow everyone to practice trail running in the best possible spirit.

  • Respect the environment. Nature is your playground. Store your gel or gum packages in your pockets. If someone in front of you unexpectedly drops a piece of trash, take the time to pick it up.
  • Trails are often much narrower than roads. Some places are only accessible to one person at a time. If you come across other trailers (or other users: cyclists, walkers, horse riders), keep to your right as much as possible or even stop and move away from the path. If someone behind you has a faster running pace, do not hesitate to stop to give way to them.
  • Alert others. If you are the one catching up to slower runners, alert them of your arrival. If you cross an inconspicuous obstacle and are being followed, wave your arm and shout to warn of the danger.
  • The effort required to stop and restart being greater when going up than when going down, custom dictates that we give priority to the amounts . The descent also offers a better viewing angle, which allows you to better anticipate.

Chi va piano…

The images of the UTMB or the Diagonale des Fous are enough to make more than one trailer dream. But reaching this level is not for everyone and requires years of training. There is no point, therefore, in thinking too big in your goals when you start trail running.

Don't forget that you will necessarily run slower on a trail than on the road, especially at the beginning, when your technique will still be hesitant. Take the time to get used to this particular way of running. Work carefully on your supports to accustom your muscles and joints to uneven terrain.

So, are you ready to start trail running? Connect with our social media and tell us about your first trailer experience.

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