Summer is coming and the woods are calling. Still haven't ventured out to your local trails for a run? In this article, we're taking all of the obstacles that are keeping you from the hitting the woods head-on.
Admittedly, we've all read articles touting the benefits of trail running. We know the effects are multifold: it gives our bodies a much needed break from the constant pounding of the roads, activates and strengthens different muscles in our lower legs, and keeps us safe from those cars whose drivers are often not paying attention to what's on the side of the road (you--running). But for legitimate reasons, lots of us can't quite get ourselves to a trailhead to take advantage of all these benefits. Let's address some of these obstacles that keep us from hitting the trails and then find some solutions.
Obstacle #1: I can't find a trail close to me.
For lots of us, running is our go-to form of exercise because it's fast, predictable, and convenient. Heading out to parts unknown is daunting, but you can easily find a nearby trail by consulting a few sources: 1) your local running store, 2) a local running club 3) our state's Department of Conservation and Recreation website. I'm constantly telling people about my favorite trails, which are all located within four miles of my house and they are in total disbelief. The trails are all around--you just need to find them.
Obstacle #2: I don't have a trail map.
I've done a fair amount of trail running and I'm pretty adamant about running a new trail with map in hand (or pocket). Maps are the best way to ensure that you will find your way in and out of the woods. Sure, smart phones are good, but your map never runs out of battery and never needs a signal. Most trail maps can be downloaded and printed before you head out. You'll want to print in color, as lots of trails are color coded and the trees are marked with painted slash marks to show you the way to go and when to turn. Again, you don't want to rely on your phone as your only source of directions or as you trail map. As runners we know that stuff happens.
Obstacle #3: I don't want to go alone.
I understand this. Trail running can be done happily as a solo activity but it is more fun when you can head off with a group or friend. Again, consult with your local store owners, running clubs, and other outdoor organizations. Our store hosts monthly trail runs throughout the summer. LL Bean and REI also host outdoor group activities and may know of trail groups. Trail clubs meet up weekly and are eager to host new runners and guests.
Obstacle #4: I don't have trail shoes.
Here's a little secret: you don't really need trail shoes in the beginning of your outdoor career. If you don't mind getting your road shoes a bit dirty or wet, you can stick with what you have. If trails become part of your daily or weekly routine, then it's wise to invest in a good pair of shoes made specifically for these conditions. Look for a pair with good traction, a rock plate that protects from the sharp rocks, and an upper made of more durable materials to withstand abrasion and scrapes.
Obstacle #5: I don't have time.
Sorry, time machines are hard to come by. Trail running is more time consuming due to the commute to the trailhead. Your pace is usually slower in the woods, too. Trail running, however, can be looked at as an activity where speed is not important, but slowing down for the for the experience is. Your drive to the natural area just might relax you, parking in a wooded peaceful lot will set the tone, and your first few steps down the path will help you to understand that trail running is less about being fast and more about just being. Hit the trails on a weekend morning, so you won't be concerned about what time the sun is setting. Don't schedule something right after your trail run so that if you do make a wrong turn (or two), you won't be stressed out about being late.
"The clearest way into the Universe is through the forest wilderness," wrote naturalist John Muir. Take a break from your running routine this summer and find the woods. They're not far away, and you don't need any special equipment to try it out. Do bring a map and allow yourself time to enjoy what nature has to offer.