Technical Off-Road Workouts Offer Shade, Require Special Gearby Kelly R. Smith; © 2022
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When you consider running in the summer heat and humidity here in South Texas, it makes sense to leave the pavement behind and hit the softer trails. If you are running as part of a weight loss program, you can’t just take up an intermittent fasting diet and bail on your workouts, but you can make it more comfortable.
If you can find a shady area, and stay properly hydrated, you’ll have a much more satisfying workout for a short run or a weekly long run. If you’re not yet a trail running aficionado, know that there is a slight but interesting learning curve when coming from a road or track background. Here’s a few handy trail running tips.
Be alert! Pay close attention to the trail surface, even on a seemingly-benign crushed rock trail. Things like exposed tree roots, partially-embedded rocks, and pesky gravel on steep declines can sideline you in a flash. I’m not saying you have to constantly stare at your flying feet; rather, pay attention to what’s coming up. Anticipation is the name of the game. Then you can make adjustments as you go along. I generally scan about ten feet ahead with short glances as needed.
Run Softly and Carry a Big Stick
The unsung running stick is an important tool if your trail is at all wooded, like parts of the Seabrook Hike and Bike Trail. So what’s the purpose? Spider web control. They spin their webs across the trail, presumably because that’s where the bugs fly. You’ll find most of them in the morning and in shaded areas.
Bigger webs means a bigger bug harvest for a hungry spider. I can’t think of many things to get less excited about than a mouth full of viscous spider innards or a web clinging to my sweaty body. That stuff just won’t let go. Running with a group? In theory only the lead runner needs a stick. What kind of stick works best? I like one with a “Y” shape on one end, similar to a dowsing rod. Hold it up in front of you keeping the “Y” at face level. That won’t help your legs too much, but most of the webs are higher anyway, torso and face, specifically.
Use an Insect Repellant
Keep a small spray bottle of insect repellant in your water belt. Mosquitoes are attracted to trails just like runners are. The incubation period after a recent rain is seven days. They’re not a big problem while you are in motion, but they’ll be on you like white on rice when you pause to climb over a log or take a break.
Use Trail-Running Gear
If your trail is at all technical, trail shoes are a good investment. I run in Kahtoola running gaiters“>Kahtoola INSTAgaiters. They are easy to use and effective since they offer an offset locking zipper and a top drawstring.
Obviously, have fun! It’s no surprise that running trails are dirtier than city streets by nature Well, unless you are running the streets of San Francisco. Then you have to avoid random junkie’s used needles and piles of fecal matter. Getting dirty on the trails is unavoidable if you’re doing it right, so just go with the flow. Mud puddles? Not so much flow but go ahead and enjoy them like your inner kid wants you to.
These are just a few spring and summer trail running tips to bring trail nubes up to speed. There’s a great selection of trails in Texas and elsewhere, so take advantage of them and catch some shade.
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