Down & Dirty: Trail Racing vs. Road Racing

Alicia Shay. Photo:

Alicia Shay’s Top-3 Tips

1. Mental Adjustment

Mentally it is important to prepare for the ebbs and flows of being on a trail. If you are used to the predictability of typical training paces on the road and track, it’s best to either not wear a GPS or pay little attention to exact pacing. Just focus on covering the terrain as quickly and as safely as possible while soaking in the beauty of the surroundings.

2. Training Intuition

Since the terrain lends to a wide variation of paces compared to the roads, it is extremely important to really listen to the feedback your body is giving you. I like to refer to this as running intuition; you want to have the ability and confidence to adjust effort according to breathing, muscular fatigue and the course you are running. It’s extremely rewarding when you learn to run in sync with the flow of the trail and use different gears and mechanics on various sections–a little like driving a manual verse an automatic.

3. Technical Skills

Trail running will challenge your athleticism and ability to move in different planes of motion. You use your muscles and mechanics in a different way as you twist and turn, power up and down steep hills and mover over rocks and roots. It’s a little like mixing in plyometrics and speed drills in the middle of a run. Adding in extra strength work in the gym will help the transition from road to trail running by making you a stronger and more well-rounded runner.

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