Are you sick of pounding the pavement or treadmill? Maybe it’s time to spice up your running life. For some reason or another, many runners have not tried running on trails. If you haven’t been trail running, why not give it a go? Here are some tips to do so safely:

We suggest starting off somewhere local (and within cell phone range) to practice your technique and to gain confidence. Within Calgary there are so many amazing trail running spots. Fish Creek in the south, Nose Hill Park in the north, Douglas Fir Trail at Edworthy Park and Weaselhead Flats at Glenmore Reservoir, just to name a few. Dirt, mud, gravel, test out different terrains as well are getting a feel for running up and down hills. Concentrate on foot placement and looking out for rocks and roots. Try to take the safest route possible, especially when running downhill. You can go out exploring for 30 minutes to a few hours if you are having fun, and believe me, it can be so much fun.

When venturing to the mountains for the first time, maybe pick a more popular area such as West Bragg Creek which is well signed with maps and tree markers and has a variety of trails which can loop you back to the carpark. That way you can run one or more trails depending on how much time you have and your ability. Always research the area for terrain and weather conditions before heading out. If possible, go with someone who has knowledge of the trails, there’s always safety, and more laughs, in numbers. Tell someone where you are going and what time you expect to return. Remember, trail miles are often a lot slower than road miles, so think of your route in time, not distance, as your pace may greatly vary throughout the run. You can walk hills to conserve energy and take breaks as needed, especially to enjoy the scenery and the experience.

There are no hard and fast fashion rules, but wearing trail running shoes specially made to enhance traction and foot protection, and wearing moisture wicking, weather appropriate, clothing will make your running way more enjoyable and safer. It is also a good idea to wear hi-visibility clothing, especially on shared trails with bikers. Always pack a light waterproof or water-resistant jacket and a hat, and maybe some gloves, as temperatures can change quickly in the mountains.

How much food and water you need will depend on how long you intend to be out running for, but always take more water than you think you will need. Stay hydrated by taking frequent sips from a hydration pack or water bottle. It is a good idea to carry some calorie option that works for you. Having some food, energy bars or gels available is a good safety measure in case you are out longer than planned. Remember to always pack all of your food wrappers out with you.

Wearing a GPS watch and packing a few extra items for longer runs such as a map, cell phone, whistle, sunglasses and sunscreen, insect repellent, headlamp, first aid kit, medication and a space blanket could be the difference between saving yourself or being saved alive if you get into serious trouble. You may not always have phone coverage, but when you do, it is a good idea to send someone a quick message if you have been out for a few hours, to say that you are okay and make them feel jealous!! It’s also good to have on you your personal information, emergency contact details and any important health information.

It is recommended to carry bear spray in all seasons. Ensure you know how to use it and put it somewhere available for quick access if needed. Bear spray can also be used to deter cougars and other animals if necessary. Make sure you are familiar with how to react best if you have a wildlife encounter in the areas in which you are running. Stay alert and make some noise from time to time whilst trail running.

If venturing off to take a photo of scenery or to relieve yourself, keep the trail in eyesight. When running, it is also a good idea to try to make a mental note of major landmarks, such as river crossings and intersections.

We share most of our trails with mountain bikers and we all try to maintain the trails for all of us to enjoy. It is easier for a runner to step off to the side of the trail to allow a bike to pass, especially on an uphill section. Runners and hikers do have right-of-way on the trail system before bikes but use your best judgement to share the trail.

As you get more confident you may wish to sign up for a trail race. If you want to explore the mountains more, maybe look at joining a local trail running group and chat with more experienced trail runners. If serious about undertaking longer and more difficult adventures, then it may be a good idea to invest in a GPS tracking/emergency beacon. The All Trails app is fantastic for finding new routes and maps can be downloaded and tracked if you pay for a yearly subscription. Get lost once and the app is worth it! Whatever your level, do not hesitate to call into Strides Running Store to get some helpful advice and trail running gear to enjoy your new sport.