Trail Running Training Tips for Spring

Written by Andrew Simmons for the Spring 2018 edition of our Trail Times Newsletter.

Spring is an amazing time of renewal, change, and awakening after the doldrums of winter. For many, it signals a return to the trails, and a reminder of all the great runs from the past year. As springtime ramps up, consider these training tips to keep you and the trails on which you run, happy and healthy.

Be patient
Many athletes take the winter season to regroup and are drawn outside with warm temperatures and longer periods of daylight. Patience is the key to returning to running in spring. Don’t increase your training more than 10-15% (mileage or time) per week. Playing it smart on your first runs will help you have a long, injury-free season ahead of you!

Be kind to trails
Early season rains and snow melt produce amazing wildflowers, tall grasses, and greenery that make trail running a highly sensory experience. However, this means the trails underfoot can get very muddy so it is best to avoid the trails during heavy downpours and sloppy conditions.

  • 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 on the trail – go through it, not around it! Avoiding an obstacle causes trail widening and trail braiding.
  • Put on your gloves for your next workout and help with trail building and maintenance. Contact your local parks department, the US Forest Service, or recreation district and sign up for a trail workday. Take ownership of your training grounds!

Dress 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. Be prepared for the conditions as they are, and what they may become.

  • A light windproof jacket can save your butt all year long! Pack it with you!
  • Dress for 15 degrees warmer than you expect to experience. This will keep you from overheating.
  • Dress in layers for the full spectrum of temperatures you may encounter.

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 forty-five 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 – including electrolytes, calories, and more. Spring is a great time to test new products – find what works for you.

Check your equipment
Safety and comfort go hand in hand. Spring is great time to inventory your equipment and sees what needs updating, or replacement before training is in full swing.

  • Clean out your hydration bladders and water bottles – even that mystery one from your drop bag in September!
  • Evaluate shoes from the tread to the midsole. Happy feet translates to a happy body.
  • Assess training clothing and gear. Hydration vests, jackets, arm warmers, tights, and shorts may need repairs, or replacement. Now is a great time to visit your specialty retailer and check out new products.

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 ramp up your training and racing. Take time now to start practicing your nutrition and understanding how your body operates best.

Lastly, and of equal importance, be a good steward on the trails. Our sport is growing rapidly and we are responsible for treating our environment with respect and care. Be an advocate to preserve and protect trails and open space – get involved!

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