desert trailRunning off-road, or trail running, improves balance, coordination, strength, and keeps you on your toes so to speak. Trail running requires more focus on where you’re going to put your foot with each step and how you’re going to take the next hill.

Trail running is also a great break from the everyday road run; both mentally and physically. So if you can get out and get away, here is some helpful advice for tackling the dirt.

Get Wide and High

To help with your balance, try keeping your arms (elbows) a little wider apart while running. Lift your feet higher off the ground to avoid rocks, debris and whatever else you find on the path.

Eyes on the Trail

Keep your eyes on the trail and focus on where you’re going to take your next step. Avoid looking up while running – instead, look ahead about three feet and see where you’re going to step for the next four to six strides.

Slow Down and Smell the…
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Don’t expect to run the same pace as on the roads. The terrain on the trail is more challenging with rocks, debris and other objects. Slow your pace and develop a tempo within the trail. Sometimes that may mean walking the hills and running the downhill’s and flats. Find a pace where you can enjoy the terrain.

Hill Techniques

Most trail runs tend to come with some hill climbing. If needed, take quick steps or power walk when running up hills. It’s just like changing gears on your bike when you ride up hills. Use your gears, shorten your strides and soon you will find yourself on top of the hill. Conserve your energy on the uphill so you can take advantage of the downhill.

On the down hills, lengthen your stride, keep your weight slightly forward and arms wide, find your line, and relax into it. Take quick steps, never landing fully on each foot.

Train Your Feet

Take short, quick steps so you can react, keep your stride rate about 90 per minute. Pick up your feet. If you’re a runner who “shuffles” and often trips on the roads pay close attention, especially when you’re tired towards the end of your run! Road shoes work, but trail shoes have more traction and protect your feet from rocks and roots.

Have Fun!

Running off-road can be a great way to mix up your routine, strengthen your ankles, become a stronger runner and see new sites along the way, so enjoy!