4 Steps to follow when starting trail running
Ever dreamt of taking up trail running as a sport? Well, you've come to the right place! Discover the exceptional feeling of escaping the city while keeping fit, the liberty of leaving the stress of every day life for a getaway on a local trail and the reward of pushing your physical limits and running longer than you ever have.
Trail running is not always easy. But for those who love to be in natural surroundings and who aren't afraid of getting tired (by this we are referring to a good kind of fatigue, i.e. one that is restorative and satisfying), it's not asking the impossible, don't you think?
So, before rolling up your sleeves and setting off for the trails, we suggest that you glance over this guide that covers the six key stages for successfully starting trail running (and continue doing it over the long-term)!
1. Choose the right trail running equipment
Trail running has the advantage of not requiring a lot of equipment to start out. However, it's important to choose your trail running equipment carefully to make your training sessions even more consistent and enjoyable.
Regarding the top, it's better to choose a high-tech breathable T-shirt (more or less lightweight depending on the ambient temperature) rather than a cotton T-shirt that soaks up your perspiration. Naturally, in cooler temperatures, you can add one or two layers: a high-tech fleece and/or a trail running jacket (windproof and/or waterproof). A
For the bottoms, you will be able to run in shorts for most of the year. If they have a tendency to ride up the leg, it may be because of friction; in this case, apply some anti-chafing cream to your thighs before you go for a run.
Regarding the feet, they need to be protected from blisters. As for the shoes, here are several criteria that you need to consider: the type of terrain on which you'll run, the distance you'll cover and certain specific factors, such as your foot size (choose a slightly larger size because your feet will swell during physical effort), the drop, the cushioning, grip or even the traction.
Now let's talk about the gear: investing in a GPS watch is a good solution for knowing all the settings of the training session that you have just completed (stopwatch, distance, elevation gains, calories burned, etc.) When you start doing long outings, you'll also need a trail running backpack: THE iconic product of the discipline. You'll be able to use this to carry your food supplies: water bottles, cereal bars, fruit jellies, gels, etc. You can also carry your survival blanket (compulsory for certain races), head torch, trail running poles, sunglasses, mobile phone, neck warmer, headband, pair of gloves, etc.
5. Progressiveness is the key
In the same way as choosing objectives that suit you, progressiveness is the key. There can be no doubt: progressiveness is the only factor that will define whether you make a successful start in the sport. And for those of you who think that this is nonsense, just give it a few years.It's a safe bet that when we meet again, you'll be saying, "it's true, I did everything the wrong way round". When we talk about speed, distance or elevation gain, the rule is always same: progressiveness. Indeed, starting out too fast in training or during a race, and you run the risk of burning your wings and achieving less than you would have done if you had stuck to the principle of working progressively. Completing all your training sessions too quickly can also lead to weariness or injury to the point of even giving up on occasion. Furthermore, signing up to a 100 km trail run six months after starting is also liable to end in disaster! The distance must not be underestimated. Rather than being a simple formality, it is a full-blown adventure with surprises along the way, some of which are good… some which are not so good, particularly when we aren't adequately prepared, physically and/or mentally. So, don't try to keep up with your friends (yet) who are already used to trail running: don't throw yourself into the fray of mountain ultra-trail running in survival mode. They are trained; you are still young and have a lot to learn, young Padawan. What's more, trail running doesn't necessarily mean ultra trail running (indeed, if you want to know more about ultra trail running, this is the place). No, there's more to trail running than this. Trail running is, first and foremost, a long-term joy (not just a passing fancy that you get bored of). And this joy is one that takes time to build: through confidence (in yourself, acquired through experience), through projects (prepared over a long period of time, so that they can be approached and achieved with a minimum of stress) and through willpower (to progress, discover and find out more about oneself). Yes, like trail running, it takes time to build joy, steadily and progressively. "Piano piano," as they say in Italian. "Siga siga," as they say in Greek. "Softly, softly, we still have a few milestones to reach," as we say in trail running.
3. Learn how to structure your training session properly
In training, discipline is essential and, for those who are scared of this word, no worries, we will point you in the right direction! Putting together a training plan is not rocket science. To make it successful (and above all conclusive), you will need the following three main ingredients: the jogging outing, the specific sessions and the long weekly outing.
Frequency: once or twice a week.
Duration: less than one hour.
You're mistaken, if you think that the jogging outing is the easiest part. It isn't in fact as easy as you might think. Indeed, many sportsmen and women do it too fast. And yes, running slowly is not as easy as it seems! Indeed, the jogging session must be done at 70 % of your VO2max, i.e. the fastest speed you can maintain when running for two kilometers. Given that the jogging session is a recovery training session, the effort must therefore be "easy"!
The specific session
Frequency: once or twice a week.
Duration: about one hour.
The specific session is rarely the favorite training session of trail runners. However, this is the one that helps them improve and overcome shortcomings. In trail running, what we mean by the specific training session is doing exercises on a slope (e.g. 2 series of 6 x 200 meter uphill sections), exercises going downhill (the same session, but going downhill), as well as speed exercises (3 x 2 kilometers at a fast pace, or even 8 x 300 meters). The specific session will build up your confidence in your foot contact with the ground, and help you get used to changes in pace by regularly running at a higher intensity; because, even in trail running, you must always be ready for a sprint finish!
The long outing
Frequency: once a week.
Duration: upwards of 1½ hours for beginners.
The long outing is the guilty pleasure of trail runners. It is the opportunity to reconnect with nature, one's body and one's thoughts, whatever they may be! The goal of the long outing is replicate the distance, elevation gain and/or duration of effort that you will have to complete in the race. During the long outing, you will also get used to your gear, try out your provisions, practice using your poles (which needs some getting used to), etc. In short, the long outing is like a dress rehearsal for the big day!
And to finish off...
However much you love trail running, you don't have to devote your whole body to the sport. Indeed, mixing it up with other types of training helps to prevent injuries, avoid boredom or even exercise different muscles to the ones used in trail running. swimming, road cycling, mountain biking, yoga, cross-country skiing, hiking, GPP (general physical preparation), etc.: there's plenty to choose from!
Also, stretch your muscles as often as possible, and take care of your diet and your sleep, as well as not doing anything at all at times… Yes, indeed, this is good news: total rest is also part of your training!
4. Start with trail routes for beginners
Three quarters of Hong Kong’s land is countryside, leaving you multiple choices for trails. Still, you need to be careful when choosing your first trails.
In addition to the 4 well-known long distance trails, discover the wide range of other trails of varying distances.