Trail running is my absolute favorite form of exercise. The feel of the wind blowing against your face as sweat rolls down your cheek, birds chirping around you filling the air with beautiful music, and the ever-changing ground under your feet is something of magic.
Not to mention the smell of flowers, berries, grass and nature as you run through a trail, smiling at other runners and even engaging in small talk.
Many people like to sit in their homes on their treadmill – boring – and think that’s the only way to stay in shape. But for me, being out in nature and on a trail is really the right way to stay motivated, get fit and boost stamina.
If you’ve never ran on a trail before, you’re missing out.
Why Trail Running is Great For Your Health
Trail running is good for a variety of reasons, and many of these reasons may seem a little “out there” for some runners. But trust me, give it a try and you’ll fully understand why I like trail running better than any other form of running out there.
Don’t get me wrong, when it’s raining or the winter months roll in and the trail is covered in snow, I opt for another form of exercise. This year I purchased a rowing machine (thanks to the RowingAdvisor team who were a great help), and I was able to maintain my endurance and stamina through the entire winter without having to spend the entire time on the treadmill.
If you’ve never ran on a trail before, it’s important to know why this is a great exercise:
- Varied Terrain: The difference in terrain will allow you to strengthen a variety of muscles. The varied terrain will be more taxing on the muscles, causing your body to engage different muscles. Uphill, downhill and even different gradients will provide a more robust workout.
- Softer Surface: Knee, ankles and joint pain occur from running, but the ground of a trail is slightly cushioned, allowing for more impact absorption, and fewer aches and pains.
- Nature: You’ll hear about a lot of the calming moments out on a trail and even hear about the “zen” of the trail. Running out in nature is pure bliss and makes you feel alive rather than stuck on a belt with no real destination in sight.
What’s a Trail?
The definition of a trail will be different for different people. It’s important that you know what a trail is first before going on a run. A trail is a trail when the following is true:
- The trail is unpaved
- Natural obstacles exist
- Elevation gain and loss is present
- Scenic views exist
And only three of these four traits need to be present for it to be a real trail. The elevation gain and loss must be “drastic” for some definitions, but if you’re nursing an injury or you’re older, even slight or moderate differences in elevation are acceptable.
How to Start Trail Running
You may run for miles on a treadmill, but you’ll find that running on a real trail is much harder. A few tips to help you start your venture into trail running include:
- Start Slow: Look for trails in your area – there should be plenty – and start with one that is easy or moderate. From here, you can work up to new, more difficult trails.
- Wear the Right Shoes: Running shoes will be a great addition to any trail runner’s arsenal, and will provide just the right amount of cushion and traction for running on trails.
- Clothing: You may run through mud and foliage that will get you dirty. Wear washable clothing that you don’t care too much about. Wearing your Sunday best is definitely not recommended.
Trail running is fun and exciting, so bring a friend along, too.
Mountain biking is both fun and rewarding, especially for those who enjoy challenging themselves athletically. Most mountain biking enthusiasts want to make the most of their experience, whether that involves getting faster, handling their bike better, or smoothly ascending or descending along difficult trails.
However, to make your mounting biking excursion safer, it’s important to pay attention to more than the road you happen to be on.
It’s not necessary to be a professional cyclist here. What’s important is your understanding of the basic components of the sport – the bike, the path, the skill level you’re on, and the potential dangers which lie ahead.
Regardless of whether you want to become a professional or simply refrain from crashing your bike, adhering to a few simple tips and tricks is the best way to achieve your goals.
Top Tips for Improving Your Mountain Biking Experience
Having good handling skills while being confident on the trail is imperative. Use the following pieces of advice to the best of your ability and then get out there to see what you’re truly made of:
1. Keep Your Bike in Top Working Order
A poorly maintained bike is never conducive with a safe or enjoyable trip. While your bicycle may look like it’s in top working order, hidden issues may be lurking beneath the surface. Since it only takes a few minutes to look over your equipment, doing so before hitting the trails is vital, even if your bike is new or has been used on numerous excursions.
Save yourself a long and embarrassing walk back to the starting point by checking the condition of your cycle before starting. Examine the following first:
- The inflation level of the tires
- The tread condition of the tires
- Any strange noises or creaks coming from the tires or pedals
- The condition of the chain
- The security of the handle bars
- The sturdiness of the seat
Remember that small problems can become much bigger once you push your equipment to the max, so double check your bicycle before the trip to give yourself enough time to fix it.
2. Ride with People Who Can Teach You a Thing or Two
When you hang with bikers who are at the same level as you, it’s difficult to improve your skills and knowledge about the sport. Not only will riding with more talented folks help you increase your expertise, it will also give you a support system for challenging circumstances that are outside your realm of knowledge.
If you want to ride like an expert, then you must do as the experts do. Watch the following behavior while on the trail:
o How the more experienced riders position their bodies on the bike
o How the better cyclists maneuver themselves over hills and valleys
o How they manipulate the bike when going over rocky or unsteady ground
o How they maintain or troubleshoot problems with their equipment
3. Keep in Shape
Before you attempt cycle trails outdoors, try and improve your cardiovascular fitness – especially if you currently don’t exercise at all – so that you aren’t exhausted by the half-way point and will not be a burden for your riding partners.
Spend a couple of weeks before your first ride, using the stationary exercise bikes at your local gym, or buy one so you can workout at home (our friends at IndoorBiker can help you find the best exercise bike to suit your needs).
4. Try to Stay Relaxed
Although mountain biking is a very challenging experience that pushes your adrenaline to the limit, doing your best to stay relaxed while on the trail is of paramount importance. In other words, you don’t want to become nervous or else your body will get stiff and you could sustain more injuries that way.
Make sure your bike has adequate suspension for the trails you intend to conquer, but remember that the best form of suspension is your legs and arms. Relax your grip on the handle bars and allow the bike to move freely beneath you while you maintain control. This will all allow you to virtually float over any obstacle.
5. Do Some Cadence Maneuvers
Rotating your cranks on the pedals is an essential part of successful cycling. Often referred to as “spin” or “cadence,” it often takes a while to develop a good technique.
Without proper cadence, you can throw yourself off balance and put yourself in harm’s way, not to mention wear yourself out much faster. Additionally, a good pedal spin method helps to maintain proper traction on difficult portions of the trail.
Try to pedal in circles while ensuring the correct gear on your bike. A gear that’s too low will make your bike spin out of control, but the proper gear and cadence will make it easier to climb tough portions of the trail.