Off-Road running or Trail Running is very different to running on a road or a treadmill. It is all about variance, terrain and elevation. Off-road running can help by developing more muscles, helping to increase a runners speed and ability and introduce people to the great outdoors. Off-road running requires more ability and endurance than the average run. So, if you are a complete newbie – apart from seeking medical advice – perhaps start with road or treadmill jogging.
To begin with…
Start by finding off-road routes that are safe, often-used and maintained. Go online or to your local library and check out the OS maps for areas in your locality that would suit your introduction to trail running or off-road running. The secondary requirements are footwear and clothing. You will need a more suitable shoe than your regular running shoe. The off-road terrain means you need extra ankle support with increase cushioning to absorb the extra pressure from diverse terrain impact. Therefore look out for off-road running shoes by Salomon or Karrimor which are designed purposefully for this very specialist style of running.
Your clothing also needs to change – you will need fleecy or thermal clothing that can help maintain bodyheat. The changing terrain can also see differences in weather and temperatures. A beginners check list should includes finding the right route with minimal elevation with a mix of rocky and grassy terrain and then making sure they have the right clothing and footwear to undertake off-road running.
Here are Five Great Ways to Improve your Fitness – Off-Road Style!
#1 – Develop your core balance!
When running off-road you will face many terrains but also you will face terrains in different conditions – including snow, frost, mud and extreme sunshine. Therefore you need to develop your balance by building up your ankle support ability to better cope in such circumstances.
The importance of getting your balance right means the difference between running and falling over, as the uneven terrain will mean your ankle will need time to become accustomed which will help you become a more balanced off-road runner.
#2 – Tone-up your core strength!
When you run off road you will put a lot more pressure on your abdominal muscles. You need to work on your side, lower and back muscles to help you become more efficient off-road. This can be done by undertaking basic core workouts like plank, side plank and lower leg raises – these will help develop your core strength which will in turn help strengthen your off-road running ability.
#3 – Start to love those hills!
You will need to start thinking of hills as your friend and will need to build-up to this by introducing hill reps into your road running before you start off-roading. Hill running differences from treadmills or flat road running as it requires you to use different parts of your legs and feet.
So start by practicing running uphill and down on the road. Once you have mastered the skill on-road take the experiences off-road.
#4 – Take care of your bum!
It sounds weird but your bum is a central part of your off-road running. Therefore you need to start practicing bum-friendly exercises like lunges and squats. Doing a couple of reps of ten a few times a week for a couple of weeks before your first off-road run will help your lower back and bum area perform as they do on-road but on a more challenging off-road terrain.
#5 – Stretch, always make time to Stretch!
You need to make time to stretch if you want to go off-road running. Some people are really bad when it comes to stretches. They either do small two minute stretches that are pointless or they avoid it altogether. This is wrong but you could do more damage to your body off-road than on-road. So always make time to do the basic stretches. Remember off-road running will challenge your whole body so make sure you stretch all your body.
These five exercises, stretches and terrain-experience building approaches will help your body and mind get acclimatised to the off-road experience. Remember you can have a lot of fun off-road running because you’re free – completely free- to run wherever you want to! We have parks, national parks and rights of way across the entirety of the UK countryside.
So take care, plan ahead, get the right equipment, hydrate accordingly and enjoy the freedom off-road running can offer the nomadic and free spirited runner!