Hone your technique
Once you leave the pavement, it’s less simple than left foot, right foot. Here’s how to change your movement from the ground up
Give your feet time to adjust
“The biggest mistake I see people making is making a complete switch suddenly,” says Dr Andrew Murray, an ultrarunner and consultant in sport and exercise at the University of Edinburgh. “Around 85% of running injuries are due to training error. This can be doing too much too soon – increasing volume by more than an average of 1015% each week – or it can be by completely changing the terrain you’re running on. I’d advise making any change a gradual transition – start with a three-miler [5K], and increase your volume gradually.”
You’re bound to be tense at first, and it messes up your running. “Running relaxed can enhance your lower body’s natural suspension system,” trail and ultra veteran George Anderson. “But it takes conscious effort to overcome the desire to stiffen the joints.” Check in with yourself every few hundred metres, and note when you’re stiffening up.
Use your arms
They’re an afterthought on the road, but crucial for efficiency on the trail. “Using your arms for balance is key,” says author and trail runner Tobias Mews. “Keep your arms – or at least your elbows – a little bit wider for added balance on more technical trails. You might need also need to lift your feet a little higher.”
…and your eyes
“Trails, by their very nature, are littered with hazards - stones, roots, drop-offs, scree, mud, sand and so on – which means that your senses need to be fully functional,” says Mews. “It helps not to be too obsessed with looking at your feet. Focus on looking a metre or so ahead to work out where you’re going to go for the next few strides.” Soon it’ll become second nature.