How to Overcome Your Trail Running Fears

Excuse Four: It'll Disrupt My Training or Race Schedule

On the contrary, mixing in wilderness workouts with your regular road or race training can make you stronger, more well-rounded, and even healthier. Plus, you'll never get bored.

While you need to train primarily on your race surface, heading for the trails occasionally will give both your body and mind a break. The softer terrain is like a vacation for your joints. "Roads can be very unforgiving," says Shoaf. "At the end of the day, you can run longer and have fewer aches and pains on the softer terrain of trails." What's more, even though trail running is easier on your body, it will actually strengthen neglected parts and work a wider range of muscles. "The tendons and ligaments in your feet and joints get much more stable because you're not moving exclusively in a forward plane of motion," says Olson, also a massage therapist. "On the trail, you're moving from side to side and engaging muscles you don't use commonly on the road."

Your mind will reap equal benefits. "You have to pay attention to nearly every step in trail running, which sounds difficult, but it can actually put you in a very meditative state," says Shoaf. "You focus on the present, not on your splits or your to-do list." If you're on a tight or demanding road racing schedule, try an easy trail run for a recovery run.

More: 7 Trail Run Recovery Tips

Excuse Five: I Don't Have the Right Gear

Yeah, right. You have shoes, don't you? And a pair of shorts? Beyond that, you don't need much, though certainly there are plenty of products out there that can help make your runs easier and more pleasant.

For your first few outings on the trail, you don't need much beyond what you'd wear on the road: sweat-wicking clothes and running shoes. "Road shoes are fine for a short run to see if you like it," says Smith-Batchen. "If you end up wanting to spend more time on the trail, it's worth investing in trail shoes."

More: Must-Have Trail Running Gear

If you're wearing short sleeves and headed to higher elevations, be sure to also take a light jacket. "At higher altitudes, the weather can change in a matter of moments," says Shoaf.

Bottoms need a pocket or two to carry gels or a phone.

Bring at least one gel, a fully charged phone, your ID, a map, and a headlamp if you'll be running at or near dark.

Trail running shoes have an aggressive, gripping tread.

A hat or sunglasses protect your eyes from overhead branches you might not see.

Smith-Batchen recommends the ratio of one water bottle per hour of running; carry more in warmer temps.

High-cut socks cover your ankles and keep debris out.
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