You’ve known it since you were a kid: Playing in the dirt is fun! As it turns out, trail running is good for you too. Not only do softer trails give legs a respite from hitting the pavement, but moving over uneven terrain helps strengthen muscles that don’t fire as often on the road or a treadmill. Depending upon the trail, the sights and sounds may even be magical enough to help you forget you are exercising. For those motivated by numbers more than fun, some sources say running on trails burns 10 percent more calories than road running. If you are still looking for your door to the dirt, here are eight ways to get started!
Run your favorite hiking route.
You know the route, the one that’s your go-to for mind-clearing walks. Try picking up the pace. Running a route you already know eliminates the chance of getting lost.
Grab a friend or two and explore a new trail.
Adventure loves company (yes, so does misery, but you’re missing the point!). Invite a friend to explore a new trail with you. The buddy system is a smart safety move, and having company will help to ease any nerves about trying something new.
Use it as a way to see natural sites.
The best waterfall, view or rock formation is rarely found next to a trailhead. Running from sight to sight means you can go farther and see more!
With a well-marked route, snacks and plenty of company, a race is an easy, at least logistically, way to explore new trails. Be sure to check out the course description so you know what to expect. Also, consider starting with a race shorter than your favorite road distance to keep it fun.
Volunteer for trail maintenance.
Check out parks and trail organizations in your area for trail maintenance days. Extra help is always appreciated, plus it’s a great way to get familiar with trails and pick up tips on new routes.
Volunteer at a trail race.
Trail races tend to be low-key events. Races organizers often appreciate an extra hand, plus you can learn about a race before running it.
Stop by your local animal shelter and choose a partner for a day.
Many shelters have programs where you can take dogs out for hikes and runs. Taking an eager pooch along for an outing means you can merge your workout, a good deed and a whole lot of fun into one run.
If you like to camp and like to run, try merging the two into a fast-packing adventure. You travel light, carrying all of your gear and food, and can cover more miles at a faster clip than if you were hiking with a heavy pack. Identifying water sources along your route means you’ll have less to carry on your minimalistic adventure.