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As you pick up your trail running here are a few tips to keep you (and your local trails) happy and healthy.
Return to running
Many athletes take the winter season as a time to regroup and are drawn outside with slightly warmer temperatures and longer sunny days. Patience is the key to returning to running in spring. Don’t increase your training more than 10 to 15 percent (mileage or time) as you return back to where you were in summer and fall. Playing it smart on your first runs will help you have a long, injury-free season.
Be kind to your trails
The beauty of your local trails requires a lot of early season rain and runoff to produce the amazing wildflowers, tall grasses and greenery that make trail running an amazing experience. This means a few weeks of muddy trails, and a few more runs on the roads or cross training instead.
- Multi-use trails are the most at risk for being punished in the wet months —stay off very muddy trails and consider another activity.
- If you encounter a big area of water or mud—go through it, not around it (provided that it is safe to do so)! Avoiding an obstruction causes trail widening and trail braiding – making the obstacle bigger and bigger.
- Get involved for your next workout—help with trail building and maintenance. Take ownership of your training grounds!
Train in layers
The beauty of early season trail runs can put you in a tough spot if you don’t go out prepared. Getting caught in a cold spring rain, exposed on a windy open trail, or a significant temperature drop late in the day can put you in danger.
- A light windproof jacket can save your butt all year long! Pack it with you!
- Dress for no more than 15 degrees warmer than you expect to experience. This will keep you from overheating.
- Dress in layers for the full spectrum of temperatures you plan on experiencing.
Warmer days will have you sweating far more than you did in the colder months. Take the time to reacquaint yourself with your running hydration plan.
- Runs over 45 minutes to an hour require hydration. Take it with you!
- Electrolytes are important even on training runs—don’t just supplement on race day!
- There are so many options for water additives: electrolytes, full spectrum (calories + electrolytes), and more. Find what works for you—spring is a great time to test new products.
Check your equipment
Safety and comfort go hand in hand. Spring is great time to go through your equipment and see what needs replacement before training is in full swing.
- Clean out all your water bottles—even that mystery one from your drop bag in September!
- Go through your shoe options—do you need to make a replacement for your trail or road shoes? Happy feet, happy body!
- Go through your training clothing. Hydration vests, jackets, and more may need repairs and spring is a great time to make repairs or research an affordable replacement.
Spring is a time to set the tone for the rest of the season. Patience in March and April pays off in June and July when you want to be in harder training and racing. Take time now to start practicing your nutrition and understanding how your body operates best.
Lastly, be a good steward on your trails. Our sport is growing rapidly and we are responsible for treating our training grounds with respect. The time is now to preserve and protect our trails—be an advocate for the trails you train on everyday. Get involved!
This article originally appeared on Trainingpeaks.com.
Andrew Simmons is a USATF Level 2 and TrainingPeaks Level 2 certified coach and the founder/head coach of Lifelong Endurance. Athletes who want to improve their race times in distance running have found major success with his Individual Coaching and Training Plans. Andrew resides in Denver, Colo., where he still trains as a competitive amateur. Follow Coach Andrew on Facebook , Instagram, and Twitter.