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Running for gym, track & treadmill haters (guest post)

Thu, Nov 11, 2010

cardio, Guest Posts

Let’s face it: gyms are stinky, tracks are so boring you’re lucky to make it around ten times before falling asleep, and treadmills are just ridiculous. Who wants to run on a conveyor belt? Most of us humans are under the impression that we’re not pieces of luggage, so treadmills are out of the question.

So what’s a runner to do? Many of us are trapped in cities or suburban areas where gyms and treadmills are the main options for daily running. Traipsing along the sidewalks is fine, but if you’re on a similar schedule to most other Americans, you’ll be competing against dog walkers, young couples with strollers, power walkers, joggers, and any number of other slow perambulators for running space. Just thinking about that, the treadmill starts to look less ridiculous. But don’t compromise your values. You can enjoy the great outdoors and still get a decent workout by trying trail running. The following tips can help you search for a running trail near you, find the right equipment, and work through some of the challenges that face trail running beginners.

Finding a Running Trail

You can’t try trail running without finding a trail, and it’s advisable to find a trail that’s actually been listed for the purpose of running. This will help keep you from getting run over by bikers, foiled by walkers, or just plain overwhelmed by trails that are meant to be hiked. You can come at this from a few different directions: find a group of trail running junkies in your area and ask them which trails are best, search online for running trails in your area, and/or interrogate the employees at the outdoor equipment store when you go to buy your trail running stuff. To find other trail runners, try the “activities” and “groups” listings on your local Craigslist community board. Otherwise, the American Trail Running Association offers a great webpage to help you find running trails in your area by state, with results sorted alphabetically by city.

Stuff You’ll Need

Your main investment in trail running will be a pair of shoes, but unless you run more than 20 miles a week at first, you can wait on buying them until you know you’re hooked. If you’re not concerned about the expense, go ahead and pick up a pair to maximize your safety on the trails and prevent injuries. The best way to learn about trail running shoes is to ask the people who work at your local outdoor equipment and sporting goods stores. Check out a few different ones to see what’s available before you decide. While you’re at it, grab a water bottle and some insect repellant. As far as clothing goes, you might want to wear some of your older running gear – you might tear it on overhanging branches or go crashing into a mud puddle. Trail running is not for the finicky, the prissy, or the phobic. It’s for people who want to get out there and feel like real runners.

Some Things to Consider

If you want the best possible experience with trail running, discard any cute gadgets you might have picked up for running at the gym, on the track, or on the dreaded treadmill. Trail running is about your body and the terrain, not your appearance, accoutrements, or entertainment. You won’t need to be plugged into an mp3 player because you’ll either be focused on enjoying the natural world around you or you’ll be trying not to let the trail beat you. To help you out with that last part, try some of these tips:

  • If you encounter sandy trails, run at the edge to take advantage of the most well-packed surface available to you. If you’re still stuck running in loose sand, dig in your toes and lengthen your stride as if you’re running up a steep incline. You’ll have to power through the sand until you reach a better surface for running.
  • Mud lovers, beware the fact that getting the stuff stuck to your shoes adds extra weight and slows you down. Avoid wet mud and try not to run straight through the middle of dried mud, as you might sink in and add weight to your shoes.
  • Keep your legs up around rocks to avoid tripping. If you start to lose your balance, slow down and navigate with caution until you’ve gotten more experience under your belt and can maneuver around rocks more easily.
  • Running through the forest? This can be a beautiful experience, but stay aware of tree roots and take them like hurdles. They’re often covered with leaves, so watch out and don’t run straight through leaf piles.
  • The best tip for trail running beginners is to simply fight your way through until you learn what to watch for and how to respond quickly enough to keep your pace up. Jump in and enjoy the challenge.

Maria Rainier is a freelance writer and blog junkie. She is currently a resident blogger at First in Education, researching various online degree programs and blogging about student life. In her spare time, she enjoys square-foot gardening, swimming, and avoiding her laptop.

9 Responses to “Running for gym, track & treadmill haters (guest post)”

  1. Tabitha @ Just Weighing In says:

    Perfect post for me this morning as I’m sitting here debating whether I should get up and go for a walk (I’m not a huge runner due to feet problems) or stay inside. I have to say that I struggle with some of the same issues being outside as I do indoors. I get bored. So thanks to your suggestion, I will go on the trail today - thanks!

  2. Michele @ Healthy Cultivations says:

    This is a great post with helpful suggestions. Thanks a million!

  3. Kelly Happy Texan says:

    Love trails. So I’m wondering: are trail running shoes different than regular runner’s shoes?

    Thanks for the links to find trails. Will most definitely check that out.

  4. Yum Yucky says:

    Ahhh, thanks! This is a must-read for my son as Cross Country season winds down. (and ya, I abhor the dreaded track run)

  5. charlotte says:

    I lovelovelove trail running! Back when I lived in Utah I used to run up in the mountains (literally 5 minutes from my house! Didn’t know how lucky I was then!!) and those runs are STILL some of my best memories 15 years later. Great advice too - especially about the tree roots.

  6. Patrick says:

    I am a walker and sometimes jogger, maybe someday runner. I need to do these things outside, as much as possible. Treadmills, inside tracks, sure in a pinch but no way a regular place to do so for me. The forest preserves around home are the place for me. So many to choose from, near impossible to get bored and not find a challenge for each time out.

  7. Jen says:

    I love trail running and don’t think trail running shoes are necessary unless you are going to encounter really rugged terrain. I just wear regular running shoes.

    I do wear my headphones when running because the trails around here are week-traveled by runners. If I was running somewhere deserted or unsafe… I would probably go find a trail where there would be more foot traffic. Running in headphones makes you less aware of your surroundings

    I will use the treadmill if the temperature is below about 15.


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