LIFESTYLE NEWS - A hydration backpack is not only for water, but can store essentials like a first aid kit and torch.
As a road runner for many years, I’ve only ventured into the trails once or twice in the past few years. Much like road cycling and mountain biking, the two are similar yet very different. In road running, the terrain does not change much. The only changes are whether you are running flat, climbing a hill, descending a hill or turning left or right. This is unlike trail running where every metre is different from start to finish.
Trail running, as the name says it, is done off road. It has more obstacles than road running and in most cases, results in slower, more concentrated running.
In road running, there is more forward momentum as compared to trail running, which often results in a lot of stop-start and directional changes. What skills are required in trail running?
Unlike in road running, when starting out trail running, it is suggested you shorten your strides in order to keep your centre of balance beneath you.
That way, it is easier to “catch” yourself should an obstacle appear in front of you. It is also much easier to make directional changes with shorter strides. It is suggested you keep your eyes down and scan the path in front of you a good couple of metres.
This helps with planning your foot placements. If you look directly where your feet land, you may miss upcoming obstacles and end up tripping.
This is the same technique used in mountain biking. When you look a few metres ahead of you, your brain processes what you see and by the time your feet land on that spot, they already know what needs to be done.
While trail running, you need to swing your arms. This helps with navigation and balance. When climbing hills, keep your back straight as leaning forward may compress your lungs and reduce your breathing capacity, making you tire sooner.
When descending hills, avoid leaning back as this might result in you losing your balance and injuring yourself. What kit do you need? This depends on the distance and route.
For example, a 10km trail run is more technical that a 10km road run and takes longer. With trail runs, you most likely need to take some water with you in a hydration backpack.
Hydration backpacks are a great investment because you can use them to also store your keys, gear, money, nutrition bars and other snacks. If your run is short, you could manage with a handheld bottle but it is not advisable on technical routes where you will need your hands to navigate. It’s best to opt for breathable, moisture-wicking clothes.
The weather in mountainous areas tends to be unstable so you want a sun hat, a rain jacket and some sun lotion. Have a small first aid kit in case you trip, fall and need to patch yourself up.
If you like running in the evening, invest in a good headlamp. All of these can be stored in your hydration backpack. A sports watch is not essential if you know where you are going but it’s a good piece of equipment to have. It will help keep you on track by measuring your distance.
Last but not least, make sure your shoes have good grip. Often in trail running you climb up and down rocky paths and shoes with poor grip can lead to loss of traction and to injuries.