Time to Hit the Trails Running

Dr. Angela Seabright
Alyssa Witzleben

| 4 min read

Runner on trail filled with autumn leaves
Becoming bored with running along the same roads every day, putting your daily miles in on the same treadmill or just looking to switch up your usual cardio routine? It’s time to consider trail running.
Trail running is a great way to enjoy the beautiful fall colors Michigan offers us during this time of year while getting the benefits of a full-body cardio workout. Before you head out on the trails, there a few things to research ahead of time. Knowing the proper gear to wear, locating a trail near you and keeping in mind proper safety tips and techniques will allow you to be equipped to conquer the great outdoors with your workout.
Trail Running Gear
The first step in a successful trail run is to make sure you have the proper gear. Due to the difference in terrain between paved roads and trail pathways, your regular running shoes might not make the cut for this workout. Trails are often muddy, rocky and uneven. They require a sturdier shoe to prevent any slips on your run. If the trail you choose to run on is a softer, gravel-like composition, then you will most likely be able to use regular running shoes. But if you opt for a more intense, wild terrain trail, then a durable shoe should be chosen to protect your feet.
Other gear to invest in for trail running are sport watches and waist-packs for carrying water. Choosing the right watch for your situation depends on what you want from the watch. For trail running, a watch that tracks your pace, heart rate and has GPS features to help you navigate the trails would be your best option to ensure safety during your workout. Other sport watches offer less features but still allow you to track your total time and splits with a stopwatch feature. If you plan on going on long runs, investing in a larger waist-pack to carry water with you while you run is a great way to stay hydrated and elevate your performance throughout the workout.
Locating a Trail
Another significantly important step in preparing for a trail run is, of course, locating a trail near you to run in. Luckily, websites such as The Trail Run Project offer information on over 200,000 miles of trails that allow you to type in your location and find a trail near you to run on. Each trail is rated and reviewed by runners like you, with fast facts on what you should know and prepare for before setting out on your run. Some trails even offer you a virtual tour of the area so you can see what the environment looks like before setting out. To save you some time, here are links to popular trails in Southeastern Michigan, West Michigan, Upper Peninsula and Central Michigan to check out. Find a trail in your area or make it a day trip to venture to one somewhere new!
Safety Tips
Keep your safety in mind during trail runs. The trails are not as steady or paved like roads, so make sure to keep an eye on the ground 10 to 15 feet in front of you while running to scan the area for roots, uneven terrain, puddles or wildlife that could hinder your path. Staying hydrated during your run by carrying a water bottle or investing in a waist pack will allow your body to regulate its temperature and prepare the body for recovery post-run. Avoid running off the beaten trail to prevent any exposure to poison oak or ivy. Even though trails can often be shaded with tree coverage, make sure to apply sunscreen to prevent any damage to your skin from UV exposure.
With all these tips in mind, you are ready to say goodbye to a boring workout routine and hit the trails this fall!
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Photo credit: Sergio Kumer

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