A huge appeal to trail running, at least for myself, is the mental engagement! There is something so fulfilling and therapeutic about getting out and connecting with nature.
That being said, it’s easy to let our mind get lost in our surroundings on the trail and lose sight of our footing. It’s so incredibly important to remember that when you are running on the trails you need to pay attention to where your feet are landing. Even the seemingly straight and flat trails can have a rock or root sticking out that you do not pick your foot up quite high enough! I’ve fallen victim to this because I’ve tripped hard in what seemed to be open flat terrain!
Where are you going?
Us humans have a tendency to naturally want to look at our feet! When we look down at our feet, we simply can’t see where we are going! When trail running, you want to be looking ahead of where you are going. You want your head in a relaxed position looking ahead of you, not down at your feet. By looking ahead 3-4 feet you can anticipate where you are going to land before your feet hit the ground. Trust me, you can make quick adjustments while running when you can see what is coming up ahead of you.
Pick Up Your Feet
It sounds simple, yes. Coming from road running, I didn’t quite realize how little I actually picked up my feet! Once I hit the trails, I quickly became extremely conscious of lifting up my feet high enough to avoid tripping!
In my opinion, trails can naturally assist you with achieving better running form. In the beginning you’ll be (or should be) aware of everything underfoot! You see it coming ahead of you and react accordingly to roots, rocks and uneven terrain. Don’t be surprised but you will be amazed at all the intricate muscles in your feet and legs that suddenly are put to work! You’ll likely feel these areas in recovery when you first begin and that is completely normal.
As you progress in your trail running experience, running will become more natural and you will start to be less conscious of your focus BUT it is so important to always be engaged with the terrain you are running on!!
Bonus Tip: Don’t turn around to chat with someone while still running, trust me the end result is not pretty! ALSO, stop and take in your surroundings; trail running should be something that feeds your soul!