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The Green Life: Exercise Outdoors: Run the Trails

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May 31, 2012

Exercise Outdoors: Run the Trails

Sierra Trail Running TipsNow that summer is on its way, it's time to take your indoor fitness routines outdoors. We'll show you how.

Tip #3: Skip the treadmill and head for the hills (or a park).

Running indoors helps us feel more in control of our pace and surroundings, but besides the joy of being outside, trail running actually burns more calories and keeps you more agile due to surprising outdoor elements, like unpredictable terrain, rocks, and roots.

Of course, both novice and seasoned road and indoor runners will want to prepare for the transition to the outdoors, so here are five helpful tips:


  1. Invest in trail running shoes, whose aggressive outsoles add traction and stability to help support your feet when hitting roots, rocks, mud, and uneven terrain. On the other hand, if you plan to run on a wood-chip or packed-dirt trail, your road running shoes should be fine.
  2. As with any activity, build up. You may be used to running a certain pace when indoors, but when on the inconsistent terrain of a trail, your ankles, knees, and quads will feel the burn, and you'll tire faster with the differing inclines. Build up your speed and adjust your terrain slowly, adding an extra 5-10 minutes of trail running per session or adding one day of trail running per week.
  3. Bring a buddy and pack a light backpack for safety. Doing any outdoor activity with a partner is more fun, but when running through unfamiliar terrain (or deep into a forest), having someone there with you in case you turn an ankle or get lost also becomes a safety issue. For your backpack, don't forget a map, headlamp, cell phone, extra hydration, and your photo ID.
  4. Keep an eye out.  There will be roots, wet leaves, rocks, wayward branches, and critters. Part of the reason that you should be running slower is so you can be more vigilant about your surroundings. Once you start becoming familiar with your new park or trail, you can begin to pick up the pace.
  5. Burn more calories and less gas by biking or running to the trailhead. Instead of getting in your car, add to your outdoor workout by cycling or running to your local trail or park — weather- and safety-permitting, of course.

Learn how to go extra green, like vegan ultramarathoner Scott Jurek, on Green Life!

--Benita Hussain / Image from iStock/jpcarnegie

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