Thinking about starting trail running, but your fears kept you away?
Trail running can be a real transformative and amazing adventure, but it can also be intimidating for newbies
Here’s the truth. Trying something new, especially trail running, can be intimidating. How do you tackle technical terrains, how to stay safe and not get lost, handle the wildlife around, etc. Quite scary sometimes, but enjoy the roll.
Today, I’ll break down five of the most common trail running fears and also a number of safety precautions for a comfortable and risk-free experience.
Fear # One: Falling While Trail Running
The scariest thing about solo trail running is that fact you might fall, break your knee or hit your head, have no network, and be helpless until night falls and you get mauled by an animal. This is a legitimate fear for everyone, runners, or non-runners.
Here’s the truth. You can pretty much fall and die anywhere, even in your own comfy home. In fact, the only certain thing about life is that you’re going to die.
Eventually, all trail runners eat dirt. Falling is unavoidable when running up and down hills and over rocks, scree, and tree roots. The sooner you accept this fact the better off you’ll be.
How To Overcome
To prevent falling, take quick and small steps, shooting for a cadence of roughly 180 steps a minute. This helps your feet to land under your center of gravity, offering a stable landing and control.
On technical terrains, pick up your feet to overcome any obstacles on the trails that could trip you up.
Already lost your footing? The key is to distribute your weight. Instead of falling straight forward, tuck your chin towards your chest, tighten your core, and roll right over your lead arm to the back of your shoulder.
Check this YouTube Tutorial.
Fear # Two: Wildlife Encounters While Trail Running
I didn’t grow up around animals, so I’ve always felt uneasy with them, including cats and dogs. That’s why getting attacked by an animal in the trails was a top fear for me.
In fact, I’d bet that wildlife encounters rank among the most common fears for trail runners, and these are pretty common.
So what do you do about it?
How to Overcome?
Lots of runners are terrified of animal encounters, but wildlife is more frightened of you than the other way around.
Most forms of wildlife often nothing to do with you. In fact, they can often sense your presence and vanish off the trail long before you can spot one.
The best way to avoid an encounter is to make some noise, shout or sing while you’re trail running to let wildlife know your presence.
Instead of trying to outrun wildlife, stay calm, back away slowly, and give them a wide berth. You may also want to run with a bear mace and a whistle to fend off potential predators.
Number Three: Getting Lost While Trail Running
Getting lost on a trail run is a gut-wrenching experience as it could make you rack up the miles, get really fatigued, and keep you out past dark, but it is also preventable.
How to overcome
First rule, familiarity. For your first solo run, pick a well-maintained route where there’s no chance of getting lost. Start with a well-marked path, preferably a looped route that will always bring you right back to your starting point.
Second rule, planning. Plan your running course on your phone, then follow the path. Don’t rely blindly on network because batteries can wear out, and tree canopy can weaken a signal. Get a trail map, a compass, then learn how to read the topography.
I’d also recommend that you go running with a knowledgeable friend or in a group so you can have help to think through things.
Here’s how to stay safe while running.
Fear # Four: Ankle Sprains While Trail Running
Along the trails lie a host of ankle twisters such as rocks, roots, and quick descents. A lapse in attention is all it takes to compromise your balance and result in an ankle sprain.
Keep in mind, runners with a history of ankle injury are more prone to injury than those who don’t.
How to overcome
Choose smooth, nice, and well-traveled dirt trails instead of incredibly technical, gnarly, or rocky trails.
Power walk through steep or technical trails. This lets your body adjust to obstacles that you may encounter while hitting the trails.
To avoid tripping, keep your gaze ahead of you instead of looking at what’s underneath you. Stay light on your feet, too. Imagine you’re running through an agility ladder, taking small and quick steps the entire time.
Fear # Five – Being Slow While Trail Running
Understand that trail running is not the same as road running—trail miles don’t translate to road miles. The steep, rooty, and technical terrains of trails is nothing like the flat, smooth ride of a road.
For these reasons, it might take you double the time to complete a mile on the trail than when running in urban areas.
How to overcome it
If you tend to obsess over your running stats, may I suggest leaving your GPS watch (or whatever you’re using to monitor pace) at home.
For example, if you regularly cover 8 miles in 60 minutes on the road, go for no more than 60 minutes on the trail, preferably running an out-and-back route, so you don’t tack on time out of the blue.
Take your time and enjoy the breath-taking scenery. Don’t stress about speed or pace. It’s not an Olympic race.
Trail running is one of the most rewarding activities you can put yourself through. I’ve heard so many stories about how trail running changed runners’ life, body, and mind. It’s a transformative experience, no matter how challenging it might be, it’s worth a try! Run now, worry later.