Kick your Trail Running Up a Notch

Trails can be superb places to run. They have all the health-giving benefits of exercising outdoors along with softer surfaces and varied terrain.

Runners in Greater Prescott should take advantage of its extensive trail system, especially as the weather warms up, but there are nuances when it comes to form and pacing everybody should know and take advantage of.

Find the right shoes and gear

Wear shoes that will give you enough traction to run uphill and give you the stability you need.

Some conventional running shoes might be able to meet your needs but dedicated trail-running shoes could be your best bet.

You’ll always need to bring at least a handheld water bottle along, and once you build up to longer runs invest in a hydration pack that can also store snacks, extra layers of clothing, sunscreen and other supplies.

Take your time

You’re not going to be able to run as fast on the trail as you do on the street or treadmill, so don’t even try. Running uphill and down and around twists and turns will tax your joints and take you over many more obstacles than you would otherwise find, providing a more interesting and challenging route.

Keep yourself going at a rapid but sustainable pace, and don’t forget about conserving the energy you’ll need to go back if you’re doing an out-and-back run — “speed hiking” on the trail is no sin.

Strengthen your ankles

Your feet will often land at an angle while you’re running on a trail, whether they’re extending downward, upward or sideways. This is going to put additional stress on the muscles and tendons in your ankles, so put in some extra effort to make them stronger and create more stability.

Forward lunges, single leg stands and Bosu ball routines can all help you in this regard.

Lean in running uphill and down

You will not be surprised about having to lean forward while running uphill, keeping a strong swing in your arms, exaggerating it if needed to keep your momentum going.

But you’ll also want to lean slightly forward while running downhill. This will allow you to proceed with more control and keep an eye out for obstacles farther down the trail.

Also, you should use your arms for balance and keep your feet quick and light.

Let’s get technical

After you’ve run a few easier trails to get your bearings, you’ll probably want to move farther into the wilderness on steeper, rockier, twistier paths that don’t cut you as much of a break. You’ll have to concentrate even more on where you’re going and not get caught up in the scenery surrounding you.

Carbon trekking poles could be a good idea if you aren’t totally confident about your balance.