Out of all the summer activities in Breckenridge, trail running might seem like the most simplistic form of outdoor recreation. It is and it isn’t.
I mean, how hard could it be? You just put some shoes on, head to a trailhead and go, right? Well, there’s a little more to it than that. Just like anything, the more prepared you are for a day out on the trails, the more enjoyable your experience will be. Here are some things to remember before heading out on the trails.
Food and Water are Key to Success
If you’re only going to bring two things on a trail run with you, it should be food and water. Keeping yourself hydrated and your nutrition dialed is an extremely important part of having an enjoyable experience on the trails. Getting behind on either of these things can affect your performance and how you feel while you’re out there. Once you get behind, it’s extremely hard to catch up again. My general rule is to try and consume 200-300 calories per hour while out on the trails. If you’re out for a shorter run, make sure you eat a healthy breakfast before you go to keep you fueled for the entire run. Try and sip on water every 10-15 minutes if possible to keep yourself hydrated as you go, but take small sips so you don’t upset your stomach. Be aware of how your body is feeling at the time. The human body is an amazing thing, and will generally tell you when it needs something. If you’re thirsty, then drink, and if you’re hungry, then eat. This may seem like common sense, but being able to asses what your body needs is a huge part of trail running. The more experience you have with this, the better you will get at understanding yourself and what YOUR body needs.
For your first few weeks of trail running, try not to overdo it. Start with trails that have minimal elevation gain, and take it easy while you are out there. Run slowly, walk when you have to, and start by running one or two miles at a time. Start by running once or twice a week at first, and slowly build your way up. By doing this, you’re giving your muscles time to develop, and giving them enough time to heal in between. Believe me when I say that you will be plenty sore your first couple weeks of trail running, even by starting with a few miles a week. Once you get past that first two weeks, you can slowly start to raise your mileage and cadence as you feel necessary. Too many miles too quickly will lead to injury and damage of your muscles, as well as lead to a general feeling of fatigue. You’ll be surprised how well your body adapts and strengthens if you build your fitness gradually and correctly.
Bring the Right Gear for the Job
Your gear is dependent on the length and duration of your run. Food and water are a must (as I mentioned earlier), but what else should you bring with you? In the mountains, you must always be aware of the weather and pack your bag appropriately for the conditions. One moment it could be warm and sunny, the next raining and cold. Having a hat and gloves are never a bad idea, as well as a light rain and wind shell in case you encounter any unsettled weather. Having a lightweight puffy jacket is also something to consider, and could save your life out on the trails in an emergency. Always carry some sort of basic first aid kit with you as well. You never know what you may get yourself into out on the trails, and it’s always better to be prepared than not.
Trail running is all about peace and serenity in the mountains. Enjoy and appreciate your surroundings. Stop to smell the roses. Hang out on the top of a mountain pass, or sit down next to a beautiful creek along the way. If you feel like running fast, run fast, and if you feel like walking, walk! The beauty of being on the trails is there’s no pressure to do anything. Just being out there is an incredible experience in itself. Take it step by step, and always remember why you’re out there.
Running is like a roller coaster with the ups and downs of different feelings and emotions. Sometimes you’ll feel great, and sometimes not so much. No matter what, if you take the time to tune in to yourself and to Mother Nature, you’ll be able to appreciate why you’re out there on the trails and that will always lead to an enjoyable, gratitude-filled path through the mountains and life.
Ready to level up your trail running? Check out the summer trail running race series in Breckenridge, Colorado.