There’s nothing quite like working out in the wilderness. The beautiful surroundings, crisp air and sense of adventure make it easy to forget that you're actually exercising.
Trail running is one of the best ways to get or stay physically fit while appreciating nature. In addition to the incredible cardio workout, running in the forest builds lean muscle as you work against the elements. It also delivers a meditative quality by allowing us to disconnect and experience the outdoors without distraction.
With all of its benefits, it’s time to take your running workout outdoors this summer. Whether you are a beginner or a seasoned pro, there are a few things to remember while you're running on the trail:
1. Keep a slight bend in your knees at all times.
You will naturally bend your knees when you are running up a trail, but it's important to avoid extending your legs all the way to straight as you're running down the trail. This will protect the joints and help to avoid knee or ankle injury.
2. Take time to foam roll.
It seems like this is a step you could pass on, but it's absolutely crucial to keep you healthy! Since trail running is high impact on your joints and quickly tightens the muscles, you'll need to break up the fascia. Take 10 minutes before and after your run to foam roll your quads, hamstrings, calves and glutes. This will help prevent injury, improve your overall speed and allow the body to recover in a shorter period of time.
3. Sprint intervals throughout your run.
You've probably heard the buzz about high-intensity interval training (HIIT). It’s an ideal way to burn fat while building lean muscle. By changing up the speed, the body never gets used to the pace. This forces the body to work harder and burn more calories.
Each week, change your interval times. For example:
Week 1: Sprint 30 seconds, moderate pace 1-minute. Repeat 10 times.
Week 2: Sprint 20 seconds, moderate pace 40 seconds. Repeat 10 times.
Week 3: Sprint 10 seconds, moderate pace 30 seconds. Repeat 10 times.
4. Keep your muscles engaged during the run.
It can be easy to forget to engage your muscles when you're running, but this can dramatically help with balance and posture. By activating your core and glutes while you are on a run, you will become fluid, stable and strong.
5. Incorporate different exercises along the way.
Turn a run into a total-body workout by incorporating a variety of moves on the trail. Every 10 to 15 minutes, stop and perform a few exercises like squats, push-ups and planks. If you're able to find a stable flat rock, you can incorporate step-ups, incline push-ups and mountain climbers. Don’t worry about performing a complete routine — by adding moves along the way, you'll improve your session and tone up the entire body.
6. Refuel right after your run.
Post workout nutrition is essential to rebuilding muscle tissue that was broken down during a run. Fueling the body with a combination of protein and complex carbs within 30 minutes of a workout helps return better results. A meal or shake right after a workout will keep the body from burning its muscle and holding onto fat.
7. Walk to cool down.
After a run, it is important to keep your lungs open and allow for maximal oxygen uptake. Walking is a great way to slow down your breathing and lower your heart rate. As you walk, bring both hands above your head and take deep breaths, inhaling for five seconds and exhaling for five seconds.
Photo Credit: Jessica Dalene Photography