Compared to road running, doing it on trail is a completely different ball game, due to the uneven nature of the trails as well as the constant uphill and downhill terrain.
As such, while some runners may prefer to specialise in road running, others will focus all of their efforts on trail running instead.
Here are some tips on how to get good at trail running.
Do Trail Training
In order to perform well at trail running races, it is important to do training on trail. For many novice trail runners, they make the mistake of training on roads and think that they will be able to automatically conquer the trails. However this is far from true because the uneven trail terrain and the constant uphill and downhill movements may completely throw off runners who are not prepared for it.
Improvise when you have to
However, that said, if there are no trails nearby, you can try to improvise to get some degree of trail running training in. So you don’t always have to go to a trail location, if it is too inconvenient for you. For instance, in Singapore, if you stay nowhere near MacRitchie Reservoir or Bukit Timah, you can always hop over to East Coast Park, if you are living in the East – as you can run on the grassy areas there, rather than the concrete pavement, and these will serve as mini trails – for you to get some trail training in. These may not serve as well for long trail training sessions, but they will make do for improvised shorter trail sessions, or you can do a hybrid of road + trail sessions.
Overcome your fears
Many runners may shy away from trail running because of the constant downhill slopes – and if they tackle these, they tend to watch their steps and take it slowly, thus affecting their finishing times as a result.
However, if you are aiming to get better at trail running and improve on your trail timings, you need to really utilize these downhill slopes – so try and build confidence so that you can run down them as fast as possible. Especially at the beginning, this could mean falling into the mud and risking injuries, but these are things that you may have to get used to, if you want to get good at trail running. You should not be afraid, for example, of a loose stone giving you a sprained ankle. And over time, you will improve at your trail running and your timings should drop – if you have been doing this correctly.
Sign up for a trail race
The knowledge that there is a trail race on the horizon will definitely give you the incentive to practise on days when you may be feeling lazy to head down to the trails for a run. So you should put your name down for a race – one that you know that you won’t be able to conquer without training for – and this should spur you to train when your mood is feeling down.
Use Different Shoes
If you use the same pair of shoes for your running all the time, this may lead to overuse injuries.
So for trail runs, invest in a pair of trail shoes, and get a pair of racing flats and stability/cushioning shoes too, if you are going to do some running on the road as well – which you should do, as a trail runner, to mix up the terrain so it won’t be as boring.