Posted by Kate O'Leary on

Fall is in full swing, and falling leaves and colorful paths create whole new world to run in. For a top-tier cardio experience, we recommend the natural surroundings, improved surfaces and performance-boosting challenges of trail running.

If you’ve never partaken in the hilly jaunt that combines foliage and fitness, there’s plenty of time to start. Furthermore, let’s take a quick look at the many benefits of life on the trail.

  • Clean Air – Most natural running trails are far removed from the diesel fumes, car exhaust and churning smokestacks of the city. Trade in that urban soot for the green, clean oxygen of the trail – you’ll notice the difference immediately.
  • Improved Technique – Running on uneven terrain causes you to take shorter, quicker strides and land on your forefeet, leading to a more efficient running style.
  • Fewer Injuries – Navigating on natural pathways is much easier on your feet than concrete or asphalt (both of which can lead to shin splints or other injuries).
  • Performance Boost – Trail running teaches athletes to navigate twists, turns, dips and hills, which hit your muscles from new angles and send your calorie-burning into overdrive.
  • Natural Surroundings – Many times we run to get away from it all, but clearing your mind can be difficult in areas dotted with department stores and delivery trucks. The solution: opt out of the rat race and head for greener pastures.

Convinced? We thought so. Once you suit up (don’t forget the thick-soled shoes), here are our top five tips for the trail:

  • Start Slow – If it’s your first time on a particular trail, choose safety first. Get to know the terrain (turns, bumps, ledges) and go about 75 percent of your normal running speed.
  • Watch the Trail – Specifically, always watch the trail three or four steps ahead, so you can mentally project your next course of action.
  • Head for the Hills – Choosing a hilly trail means you’ll work your leg muscles and cardiovascular system harder, which lends itself to a serious, calorie-burning workout.
  • Bring a Drink – You might run farther than you anticipate, or hit bigger hills than you were expecting. A holstered water bottle is perfect for a quick refuel.
  • Consider a Camera – Whether you’re running through forest preserves, natural wetlands, mountainous terrain or rugged oceanfront, it’s bound to be gorgeous out there. Snap a couple pictures while you take that water break.

This fall, take the road less traveled and hit the trail!

Written by LifeFitness