Trail Running 101

Updated: Jul 2, 2021

Running is one of the easiest forms of exercise to start, mainly because you don’t need much equipment - a pair of running shoes and some fitness clothes and you can get out there. Trail running breaks up the mundane treadmill or road running and it’s actually better for your training and on your body. With the right preparation, you can become a trail running master! Let’s break it down!

Pros of Trail Running

Trail running makes you a more balanced runner as you get the opportunity to run on different surfaces - gravel, dirt, mountains, and even paved sections. You can easily explore the world around you and discover the beauty of nature that is hidden on the other side of the street. As trails do contain different obstacles - roots and rocks - it provides a easy way to work on your ankle mobility and balance! I am a complete klutz, so, if you are like me, be sure to keep an eye on your surroundings! Trails also offer a softer terrain which is more beneficial on your joints!

Cons of Trail Running

I would say the one thing that is the biggest ‘con’ is the fear aspect that a lot of people have towards trail running. People get nervous of getting lost, strangers on the trails, animals, potential injuries, and being alone. The best thing to do is start on a more traveled trail that is well marked before exploring more remote options. If possible, bring a friend! There are a lot of ways you can prepare for trail running to make it a little less scary.


-Trail identifiers: It is key to know what trail markers mean as they will help you from

getting lost (check out my guide!)

-Terrain: Trails will present all different terrains - gravel, mountain, dirt, paved, rocky -Location: There are trails all over - town, county, and state. You can easily identify trails on apps like: Google Maps, Strava, MapMyRun, Footpath, All Trails, and on local websites (county websites, town web sites, and state). If you are so bold, you can even make up your own trail running through the woods. Keep an eye out, I am working on a Morris County trail guide!!

-Strength training: Including some strength training can help make running trails a little easier. Focus on strengthening your core, arms, ankles, and calves. Additionally, adding some single leg exercises will help with balance - think running amongst rocks and roots!

-Hill training: Trails typically present hills, and I would say is one of the more fun ways to practice running them. Take it easy running up and let gravity do the work running back down. Keep an eye on the trail in front of you to make sure rocks and roots don’t trip you up! -Form: I’ve mentioned more than once that running form is very important in preventing injury and improving your speed! Increasing your cadence by taking shorter strides is key for running on trails. Keep your core engaged for sudden changes in terrain!

-Walking: It’s ok to walk! Trail running can be very strenuous due to elevation gains and terrain changes. Don’t be ashamed to walk/hike when you need to!


-GPS Watch: Outside of being able to keep an eye on time, a GPS watch helps with checking your stats while running and can track where you are. -Layers: If you are planning on running longer than an hour, it is smart to have an extra layer with you. If you are starting in the morning when it is cooler, you want to be able to shed that layer when you get hot. It is also useful should the weather get cooler the higher you get in elevation or if there is a sudden change in weather. -Hydration: It’s always smart to have a water bottle with you, even if you are only running for 30 minutes just in case. There are so many options available between small handheld water bottles and hydration packs. -ID + cash: It’s smart to keep your ID & a little bit of cash on you in case of an emergency. It’s a great idea to invest in a RoadID so you don’t have to carry your Drivers License. -Fuel: Even carrying one gel pack with you can totally change the outcome of a run. Just having a quick energy boost can push you through the finish of you run. -DriFit running gear will pull sweat away from your body to prevent blisters and chafing and will also dry quickly to prevent chills when you stop running -Trail shoes are not necessary but definitely help you keep your traction on rougher terrain trails -First Aid Kit: Keeping one in your car is always a good idea for any injuries you encounter. If you are going on a longer run it’s smart to keep a small First Aid Kit in your bag. -Belt to carry your phone, ID, cash, key, etc. There are so many different options out there to best fit your needs and the run you are doing. -Safety: Carrying PepperSpray or wearing a Nathan SaferRun device can be a complete game changer in your personal safety on trails or off!


-Make sure someone knows where you are running and make sure you check in with them when you get back. You can easily share your location using several apps: Apple Location, Garmin LiveTrack, Strava  Beacon, Kitestring, bSafe)

-Bear and Bells: This app is a virtual Bear Bell. If you are running in an area where bears are known to roam, it is a good idea to either purchase a physical cal bear bell or download this app. The app can help keep bears and other wildlife away as they don’t like loud noises.

-Should you encounter animals on your run, read up on what to do for each animal. Being prepared is the best defense you can have! Read this article by Runners World on how to deal with wildlife on a run:

-Injury: Knowing basic First Aid is key in how to help yourself should you get hurt while running - trails or on the road. Again, keeping a small First Aid kit on you or in your car is a really good idea! Heres a good basic first aid guide:


Dickerson Mine Preserve, Patriot’s Path, Turkey Brook, West Morris Greenway, Lewis Morris Park, Schooley's Mountain, and Stephen's State Park are among some of my local favorites but there are so many that I am yet to explore too!

Trail running is a great form of exercise with the right preparation! Get out there, enjoy the great outdoors, and tag @trailblazerrunco in your adventures!!

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