There is mounting research suggesting that time spent in natural environments can have a tremendous impact on our well being. Even more research boasting the benefits of cardiovascular exercise. Somewhere along the line we confused comfort for happiness. We evolved in nature yet somehow have become more disconnected from it than any generation previous. Countless hours of running through the woods has literally changed my brain chemistry for the better.
I feel incredibly fortunate to live in the great state of New Hampshire. We have a deep rooted history in the outdoors. It’s part of the culture here. Every region has an abundance of outdoor recreational opportunities. We are world renowned for our hiking, skiing, mountain biking, rock climbing, etc. However, no sport has captured my imagination and improved my mental and physical health like the sport of trail running.
Trail running is loosely defined as running on any un-paved surface. Generally, it takes place on hiking trails that can vary from gentle paths along the river to treacherous trails up mountainous terrain. The sport is currently experiencing a significant spike in popularity as more and more people seek solace, solitude, and to reconnect with their environment. “Side effects” of trail running include stress reduction, anxiety relief, mood enhancement, increased creativity, and improved physical appearance.
Should any of this sound desirable to you I’d like to offer the following advice to get you started.
Want more? Check out our trail hub HERE
The 7 principles of Leave No Trace are a framework to minimize your impact on the the environment and ensure that you leave the trails in the same (or better) condition for everybody after you. For more information head to Leave No Trace.org.
Be familiar with the area where run. Not all trails are designed equal: Some trail networks can be confusing spider webs that leave you turned around, lost, and late for work. Conversely, some trails can be so technically demanding that the idea of running them seems laughable. Although it’s fun to explore new areas, start by honing your skills somewhere familiar. Choose a system that is well marked and maintained and use mapping websites like the Run Trail Project to know what to expect.
Don’t expect your road splits to translate to more technical trails. By nature, trail running is a more relaxed pace. Take what the terrain gives you. Don’t feel discouraged if you walk a steep and technical section. The trail will generally open back up into more run-able terrain. Trail running is a more dynamic and fuller sensory experience. Notice the silence and changing flora. Take your time and enjoy the journey!
Although good gear can be crucial, don’t rely exclusively on technology. If you find yourself in a situation where tech is faulty and unreliable, know how to use a topographical map. Topographical maps are a marvel of modern day technology, printed on water and tear resistant fabrics. I recently discovered my map floats in water. Train your internal compass and use natural features (like the sun) to help navigate but always have a map ready to reference. Don’t forget to scout the route!
The beauty of trail running is you don’t need a lot of specialized gear to participate. However, it becomes painfully obvious when you choose the wrong gear or neglect to plan ahead.
Footwear is obviously important. However, you don’t need a super aggressive trail runner to run on a majority of trails at lower elevation. I actually prefer a road shoe on less technical terrain, like rail trails. Wearing a road shoe allows me the freedom to connect trails with sections of pavement. Trail shoes are not particularly comfortable on sustained stretches of pavement but road shoes can handle less demanding trails.
Conversely, I would never consider running in the White Mountains in anything less than a pure trail runner. It is important to always consider the terrain and remember that hydration not only increases performance but also the experience. Bring water! There’s really no excuse not to with the advancement in water carrying products including hydration vests from Nathan and Amphipod
Looking to see what’s in stock? Check out our trail gear HERE
Consider apparel with additional pockets and sun blocking capabilities in summer. Learn how to layer properly when temperature gets colder. If ever in doubt, always feel welcome to seek the friendly advice at your Runner’s Alley.