When it comes to running on or off road there is a clear winner for me. It’s off road every time. But, running off road can be very different to road running, so with the Spring fast approaching, here are my 6 top tips for running off road.
1) Off road shoes
Your running shoes are the most important item in your kit bag. But, your regular road running shoes probably aren’t going to cut in on the trails, track and pathways. You might get away with in the summer when it’s dry, but investing in a good pair of road running shoes, with good knobbly grips will definitely help in the long run.
2) Get some additional kit
You may also want to invest in a few other items as well as new shoes. Here’s what I often use on my off road runs:
- Water-bladder – I wouldn’t be without mine on a long run
- Small first aid kit – just in case
- Emergency blanket – sounds extreme, but I have one thought thankfully never needed to use it
- Whistle – against, a bit extreme but if you do come a cropper this is a good way to attract help
- Compass – if you are going out into the moors then this could be a good idea, of course you need to know how to use one and have a map too
- Map – see above!
- Flares – OK, I’m being silly now!
3) The balancing act
If you’re new to off road running then you will find you need to adjust your running technique. Off road and trail running will require better balance as you are running on uneven surfaces. A strong core will help here as will one-leg balancing exercises too. Also, shortening your stride and lifting your knees higher will be a huge benefit.
4) Look down, not ahead
You probably know that when it comes to running technique and form that keeping your head up and looking to the distance is the preference. However, when running off road you need to be looking closer to the ground. There’s not point in looking ahead to see the hill that you will be running up if you miss the large rock on the floor and send yourself sprawling to the ground or miss a low branch that you clatter into. I find it best to look about 6 strides ahead of me when I’m off road.
5) Let others know where you’re going
Running off road can take you into some remote areas, or areas not frequented by many people. Therefore it is essential that you let someone know roughly where you will be running. My next tip is about exploring, so sometimes it’s not possible to give someone your exact planned route, but it’s still wise to give them an idea in case you get into trouble and don’t return.
5) Explore new areas
Without a doubt, my favourite thing about off road running in exploring new areas. I love nothing more than pouring over an Ordnance Survey Explorer map and picking out interesting looking routes. Once I’m out there I often chop and change route if an interesting path presents itself. It was this mentality for exploration that led me to my favourite run ever last year – check out the video of it here.
6) Slow it down
You will need to slow down for running off road – it just makes sense. Running on a flat, open road is fantastic for speed. But this just isn’t the case on a narrow track through a forest or a poorly maintained pathway through the countryside. Try and run fast off road and the chances of you falling increase significantly. Don’t sweat it that you are running slower because what you lose in speed you will make up for in other areas. You’ll be strenghtening major muscle groups, your core and your ankles. Plus, for me running off road is just so good for the soul too!
Thanks for reading and I hope that these tips will help you get off the roads on out onto the trails and pathways.