Get access to everything we publish when you sign up for Outside+.
Trail running is beneficial for just about every body, mind and soul. Running on a natural surface—wood chips, dirt, grass, sand—not only strengthens everything in your body differently from road running, but it’s easier on joints. And the mental benefits of trail running are notable too. Exercising in a natural environment has been proven to do wonders for improving a mood. And who wouldn’t want that?
Are you looking to get out on the trails, but don’t know where to start? Read on for your own personal dose of outdoor empowerment.
If you don’t want to trail run because…“I’m not outdoorsy.”
You prefer the predictability of a gym, and the measured paces and distances of a treadmill; or perhaps you’re comfortable running on your local streets, but the woods feel off-limits.
Know that not all trails are gnarly.
“Trail” doesn’t have to mean rugged, rock-strewn singletrack that zigzags up a mountain. A trail can be flat, smooth, rolling or meandering, with minimal obstacles in your way. A park that’s family-friendly may be a good place to find an easy trail, and you can work in some walk breaks when you’re on trickier terrain.
If it’s the potential sightings of critters like snakes and mountain lions that have kept you indoors for your workouts, rest assured. While it’s important to stay aware of your surroundings to keep animal encounters safe and at a distance (don’t wear headphones), spotting wildlife on the run can be an exciting, enriching experience.
Go with a friend.
Running with a seasoned trail runner can instantly make you feel more relaxed. Your friend will know where to go, and her comfort on the trail will rub off on you. And if you don’t have more-experienced trail-running friends, even going with another newbie will put you more at ease. Strength in numbers, right?
Wear what you’ve got.
Don’t let a lack of specific trail running gear hold you back. You can run on most trails in any road running shoes and athletic wear. Once you love it (and you will), you can invest in trail-specific shoes that will give you more traction and support.