Trail Running Tips for Beginners

Trail Running Tips for Beginners

Reading Time: 3 minutes

My introduction to trail running was a less than intelligent one. At the age of 26 I figured that I was fit, strong, and mentally tough. But 15 miles into a 28 mile race I started to rethink my assumptions. It was almost 11 hours later when I finished that first trail race. Please, please learn from my mistakes. I don’t ever want to discourage someone from challenging themselves, but trail running can be so much more pleasant and positive with a few simple ideas. Read on for my trail running tips for beginners so you don’t follow in my footsteps.

1. The Right Shoes

Start from the ground up, which means having the right shoes. We all have different shaped feet, different goals, and different desires for where and how we run. Having a pair of shoes that match your needs is so important. Maybe you need an aggressive tread offered by the Salomon Fellraiser or Speedcross 3. Or maybe you need the Sense Mantra 2, which is a great choice for forefoot, and midfoot strikers. For most running around Park City, the XR Mission is a great choice as a door to trail shoe. The Contagrip HA pad under the forefoot makes for a smooth, efficient gait on pavement and packed trails, but the XR Mission still has a tread pattern to happily climb and descend on the beautiful single track around Park City.

Muddy Running shoes on a porch

2. Training

Let’s talk training, even though I rarely use the, “T” word. Don’t think of training in the same way that an Olympian would, but rather as a process of getting your body ready to ensure a happier, healthier trail running season. Start slow. Seems simple, but sometimes it’s hard not to just keep running! Build up to those long runs, so you don’t break down from running too hard, too early in your season. The best way to get the most out of any exercise is to follow up with some stretching. This doesn’t need to take hours, just a few minutes, concentrating on your own trouble areas such as hip flexors, hamstrings, or the upper back.

3. Nutrition

Another huge component of having a happy run is nutrition. Again, don’t overthink it. Your body wants simple sugars and electrolytes (to simplify). I am a fan of eat your carbohydrates, and drink your electrolytes. My favorite products are OSMO drink mix, ProBar bolts, and Sport Legs, which are all available at White Pine Touring and Jans Park Avenue. OSMO Active Hydration is easy on the stomach and the palate (no one wants to feel like they’re drinking cough syrup out there). ProBar Bolts keep it simple made up mostly of simple sugars (and they’re Vegan!). Sport Legs are great for maintaining happy muscles on long runs. Heads up for anyone with low blood pressure as Magnesium can lower BP, and Sport Legs have lots of Magnesium (and Calcium). Shop around, and see what agrees with you best. Don’t choose that three hour run to try out a new product in case things don’t go well. Experiment on shorter runs, and stick with what you know for longer excursions.

Nutrition snacks on a counter

4. Hydration

It’s all fine and good to take on nutrition and water while running, but how do you travel with it all? There are plenty of choices out there; you just need to decide what works best for you. For longer days, consider a running vest such as the CamelBak Ultra LR Vest. With a 70oz lumbar reservoir, and plenty of space for your extra gear you can bring everything you need for the day. If you won’t be out all day, try a waist belt system such as the Salomon Twin Belt. This system has plenty of carrying capacity for fluids, as well as some energy chews or GU, and your phone. Minimalists can try the Nathan QuickDraw Plus or the Salomon Park Hydro Handset. They both are handheld systems that carry 22 oz, and 16 oz respectively, and have a bit of space for a few chews or GU packets. I thought a handheld system would drive me nuts, but I ran the Jupiter Peak Steeplechase, and the Park City Marathon with one, and barely noticed it – give it a try!

As you can see there are plenty of ways to start your season off on the right foot (sorry, I just had to). Check out all that has to offer in terms of men’s running shoes, women’s running shoes and hydration accessories. You can also stop by our retail stores to get answers to all of your questions from our trail running experts.

Patrick Coffey, Summer Programs Director