Tips for beginner trail runners

Six ways to take your trail running to the next level

Do you want to know how to improve your trail running?  Jake from JT Expeditions gives us his six top tips…

Take it to the next level (or hill!)

1. Gear: You’re going to need the good stuff to take your trail running to the hills and mountains of the UK. The nature of trail running in the mountains means that you’ll be exposed to the elements for longer periods of time, you’ll be working hard physically burning a lot of calories and energy, and you’ll be in lighter weight gear which therefore needs to be of good quality for it to do the job properly! Here’s a link to my “top 5 bits of kit for mountain running” blog that I wrote last year. You need to ensure that you have layers that are suited to high intensity mountain sports, a good waterproof jacket and items for emergency.

2. Navigation: Having a little toolbox of navigation skills really allows you to explore off the beaten track and gives you the confidence required to head out further into the hills and most importantly, do it safely! Understanding and being able to read contours and map features as well use a compass effectively and take grid references not only allows you to plan routes and follow them it also means that in an emergency (such as a bad lower leg injury) you can identify your location and request help if needs be. On top of all of that, being able to navigate simply allows you to go visit the cool places and run there!

3. Fitness/Conditioning: Mountain and trail running will give you hurty bits and DOMS like you’ve never had before. You need to make sure your bodies prepared for the impact of trail running so it’s a great idea to build some strength! Mix building up the intensity and distance of your trail runs with strength training in the gym. One of the best moves I took for my running was to do running specific strength training in the gym focusing on glute activation and strength, as well as core and quad strength/endurance. This built a much stronger “chassis” capable of taking the regular impact of running distances over rougher terrain. A friend of JT Expeditions, Fliss Doyle who’s a Sports Therapist wrote a great blog for us about the importance of your glutes when running and how to train them.

4. Eat and Hydrate Right: The old saying “eat before you’re hungry, drink before you’re thirsty” really comes into play when you start taking on longer more remote trail runs. The weather conditions and the terrain can often mean that your body is working much harder thus requiring more energy. It’s not uncommon to loose your appetite running in the hills which makes it even more important to eat and drink otherwise you’ll end up in your “reserves” and won’t get out of them. Little and often is the way to keep drip feeding your body and keep your energy levels up!

5. Head Game: Longer distance or more serious trail running requires you to learn to be comfortable when you’re uncomfortable and be able to crack on and keep running! You need to learn your coping methods and the little things that keep you going but a good starting point is:

– Break your run down into sections and reward yourself once you’ve completed each section (a snack, a quick breather etc.)
– choose enjoyable runs with great views to practice on
– go out in some bad weather once in a while (as long as you’re well equipped), this will not only make you appreciate the “good days” but you’ll learn a lot more about yourself in bad conditions which is when you’ll develop good resilience and coping methods that are applicable to all the tough days in the mountains!

6. Managing Yourself: This will keep you as long as possible from getting uncomfortable in the mountains and from making everything more difficult. Examples of managing yourself properly include: layering/delayering dependent on weather conditions to prevent you getting wet/sweating too much, eating before you’re hungry and drinking before you’re thirsty, wearing gloves before your hands get too cold, not stopping for too long and if you do making sure that you’re as sheltered as possible to prevent getting too cold.

JT Expeditions have guided Run Mummy Run trail runs for beginners and intermediates in May in the Brecon Beacons. 

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