10 Tips to Start Trail Running

Trail running can be intimidating. I still vividly remember my first trail run in North Vancouver. I went out with two friends, one of which who knew the route and “led” us. I started the run/hike feeling completely lost in the wilderness, wondering where exactly she was taking us, feeling a little scared and nervous.

As we continued our adventure though, I found the forest to be comforting and the quiet of the woods seemed to seep into me; I couldn’t wipe the grin off my face. We got back to the parking lot in just over an hour, covered in mud, and figured we had run 10km! We found out after the fact our loop was actually 6km, it just took us the same time as 10km on the road. But it didn’t matter. I was hooked, and the rest is history.

Here are some tips for getting started with trail running. If you ever have any questions about starting out, or running in general, feel free to reach out.

01 — Bring a friend
When you're trying something new, it's usually less intimidating with the comfort of a friend. Not sure who to ask? There are community groups both online (Facebook, Strava, etc.) and in person (run groups), where you can reach out and meet someone new. Don't be afraid to put yourself out there. There's a good chance someone else is in the same boat.

02 — Walk before you run
There is no rule that says you have to run all the time, or run all the hills. The pace you travel in the forest is determined solely by you. Run when you can, walk when you need to. Sometimes the more efficient way to travel uphill is to hike!

03 — Keep it interesting
It's easy to do the same thing over and over, due to time constraints, or just not being sure where to go. It's also one of the easiest ways to get bored or burned out. When you can, try a new trail, a different time of day, run with a group, run solo, or do a hike instead (e.g.: The Chief). Change it up and have fun with it. Routines are great, until they’re not.

04 — Don’t worry about your pace
Road running and trail running are two very different sports. Because the trail terrain varies so much, pace doesn't translate over equally. You may not be quite as fast (yet), and that's ok. Don't worry about your watch; soak in the beautiful views, the fresh air, and the sounds of the forest.

05 — Set a goal
It could be anything, big or small, as long as it's specific and attainable while still challenging. Examples could include hiking the first peak of the Chief in under 60 minutes, running the steep hill near your house instead of walking, signing up for your first trail race, or going for a run/hike for 90+ minutes. You can even set mini-goals along the way; run to that tree, run the last 10 meters of a hill, etc. The options are endless, but it'll be easier to keep at it when you have a goal to work towards.

06 — Start with something less technical
What do we mean by technical? The more roots, rocks, terrain changes, and incline, the more technical the trail. Just like skiing, start with something marked green or blue on a trail map, or more of a ‘city park trail’ to get your body used to the varied terrain and elevation.

07 — Start with less elevation
It can be easy to change your pace and hike up an incline, but when you're not used to running downhill, it can be a little intimidating or scary. Running downhill efficiently takes time, and can be harder on your legs. Build up to tackling the elevation both up and down. See number three; change it up, and keep it interesting.

08 — Shoes
Gear can be overwhelming and easy to get caught up in. The best part about running is it's simplicity, so start with a good pair of shoes. You can get away without the fancy vest, but having the right footwear is important. You want to look for something with a fairly aggressive tread pattern to grip various surfaces, and sticky rubber if you're traveling on any sort of slabby rock (ahem, Squamish trails). Not only will you have more support and protection, but the added traction of a trail shoe will keep you upright and more confident. Come talk to us in the shop and we can get you sorted.

09 — Be Safe
We recommend leaving the headphones at home—especially at first—so you're alert to the sounds around you. We also recommend leaving a route trip plan with a friend or family member, and carrying your cell phone with a map/app of the trail network. We use TrailMapps (developed by a Squamish local) and Trailforks ourselves, and they work even when your phone has no service.

10 — Don’t be afraid
Worst case scenario? You don’t like it, you’ve gone for a good hike, and tried something new. But we’re pretty sure you’re going to love it. Trail running is an amazing way to spend time outside in the forest/mountains, and if you keep with it, you’ll be amazed at what you can do in a few hours.

All fired up and looking to get started? We have a brand new Introduction to Trail Running clinic starting Sunday May 6, 2018; it’s an 8-week clinic geared towards newer runners looking to get in to trail running.

See the Intro Clinic

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