How to start trail running when you live in the city
Running is becoming an increasingly popular way to escape the hectic pace of modern life. Since the mid-1990s, its popularity is estimated to have increased by 15% each year to around 20 million trail runners worldwide.
Henriette Albon started trail running thanks to an interest in orienteering. Although she lives in the city, she remembers joining her parents on weekends to run errands. When Albon moved to London, she continued orienteering until she decided she didn’t want to read maps anymore and started taking part in trail races.
Now the 31-year-old Norwegian is a top trail runner, landing increasingly impressive finishes on the international circuit. As an Arc’teryx Trail Running Ambassador, she’s also passionate about getting more people involved in off-road running, no matter where they live.
What is trail running and how does it differ from regular jogging?
“The most fundamental thing is that in road racing you are faced with only one surface,” says Albon. “On trail, you’ll have rougher, more involved terrain – from hard-packed trails to more technical trails.”
This means you may be running on grass, mud, sand, or track – any unpaved surface. The change in terrain means it is often hillier and slower than road running. But if the challenge is greater, the reward is just as great.
“Trail running is a little more complicated, but the advantage is that you are in nature,” says Albon. “You’re moving over more pleasant terrain, which can help relax your body and mind in a different way to moving on paved roads with skyscrapers around you.”
How do I start trail running if I live in town?
The best place to start is your local park. “They’re your ‘go to’,” Albon says. “Run the road, go to your local park and explore the trails. Get off the beaten path and find these little paths on the side. Above all, have fun. »
As a beginner, the easiest trails to take are the ones that aren’t too technical. “There are plenty of really nice and fun paths that are well maintained and more challenging and that’s probably where I’d start,” she explains. “But you can try different things depending on what you have access to.”
To find the best routes, there are many applications. AllTrails gives you access to a database of trail maps including reviews and crowdsourced images, while running the Strava app includes heatmaps so you can see where people are running and filter trails. routes based on paved surfaces and trails.
For most city dwellers, you’ll have to mix it all up to include both paved and unpaved surfaces in a race. “You might end up running in a park, doing a trail loop, then running back. It’s a good way to get some effective distance on the paved roads and then get out into the wild for a bit before heading home,” says Albon.
Another way to start trail running is through Parkrun – free weekly events that take place in parks and open spaces across the UK. Some have paved courses, but there are many that involve gravel, grass and track. “Parkrun is a great starting point,” adds Albon. “It’s trail running. You don’t have to go up and down really fancy mountains; it’s just a fun way to get out on some green stuff.
If you’re a beginner, you should aim for two runs a week, incorporating a few runs/walks. She recommends trying five minutes of running and two or three minutes of walking.
How to become stronger in trail?
Like any activity, it takes time to develop your skills and your physical condition. For road and trail running, the general rule is to increase mileage by about 10% per week.
It’s also important to incorporate speed work, even if you think you’ll run slower. “A lot of people automatically think that they don’t need to work on their speed on the flat if they’re training for the trails,” says Albon. “But ideally one session per week should be intervals on flat trails in your local park.”
You also have to get used to the hills. If you live in a city, it can be tough, but Albon says treadmill workouts are absolutely a great way to train: “Inclined treadmills are a great way to target the right muscle groups and build muscular strength and endurance. it’s necessary,” she adds. Try to work up to a 10% gradient or something you can run on consistently.
How to do strength training for trail running
At Strong Women, we’re big advocates for runners who dedicate at least one workout a week to strength training, but for trail running you don’t necessarily have to go to the gym to use the leg press. . “I’m a big fan of bodyweight exercises,” Albon says.
For a simple yet effective workout, she recommends:
- 10 box steps
- 10 lunges (front and back)
- 10 squat jumps
After the 10th squat jump, return to the box steps and do the whole thing three times.
“A lot of people say they don’t have the time, but if you do 20 minutes of strength training a week you’ll see huge benefits. A little goes a long way – don’t think it’s a waste of time. time because it really makes a difference.
Hiking is also a good low-impact way to get used to the trails. When you’re ready, you can join a race or head out of town with friends to enjoy group runs on new trails.
What kit do I need for trail running?
The most important thing is that you don’t have to buy a whole new kit to go from road to trail running. However, you should consider buying a new pair of sneakers.
In trail running, there are different shoes depending on the terrain – so you need to assess what type of trail you will be running on. Then you can go shopping.
“It’s important to help prevent injuries,” says Albon, who just backed the launch of the new Norvan LD 3 trail runner. a good pair of trail shoes because you risk slipping and injuring yourself. I’ve seen a lot of people running with trainers in those kinds of conditions and it’s not going to be fun.”
However, if it is a light, hard trail and not muddy, you may be able to use road shoes, especially if you are running on paved roads in both directions from a park.
Finally, if you’re looking to spend a little more time on the trails, you should also consider a trail vest like this one from Nike or The North Face. Refueling is essential and you need somewhere to carry snacks, water, cash and a printed map.
“Getting out into nature with snacks and a drink and having fun moving at a set pace is really nice,” adds Albon. So what are you waiting for?