Distance Running Tips: Transitioning From Road To Trail

There are pros and cons to both the road and the trail. But if you’ve yet to have a taste of trail running or are even a little nervous about making the switch, these distance running tips on transitioning from road to trail are for you!


Distance Running Tips: How Does Trail Running Differ From Road Running?

If you’ve been running for at least a couple of months, you’ve probably come up with a few favorite routes near your home…that out and back to the high school, 5 times around the local park, maybe 3 loops around your neighborhood?

And I’ll bet you’re getting a little bored of looking at the same things or even feeling the same way at the finish.

We can only make our local road routes so challenging (especially in flatter terrain areas) before they become a tool in helping us plateau.

Trail running anywhere is tough.

No matter where you are or where you’re headed, you’re practically guaranteed to run into an up or downhill.

And if you don’t run into one of those, you’ll at least have to navigate around some rocks, tree stumps, a stream, or even some wildlife.

Trails, though many manmade, are natural and can change day to day.

They provide challenges and obstacles – new opportunities to feel strong, weak, prepared or defeated.

The weather will affect the conditions of the trails and as a result your day-to-day ability to get up and down them.

But as with anything else, challenges keep us awake. They keep our training fresh and our egos humble.

Trails expand our training options and most importantly, give us some stunning views.

Trail running helps us detach and unplug, which sharpens our focus on progress.

Distance Running Tips: Don’t Do Too Much Too Soon

trail running tips

It’s easy to get swept up in jumping headfirst into a new activity.

To avoid injury, burnout or just generally feeling overwhelmed, forget everything you think you know about trail running.

Trail running and ultra running are not the same things, despite popular belief.

Start out with the mileage you are familiar with, and maybe even drop a mile or two off of that.

The trails are going to be tough and your typical run volume is going to take more time and effort to tackle.

Use intensity as your guide and be patient.

Also remember that with more hills and technical stepping comes increased muscle soreness.

This is not the time to ignore your foam roller or lacrosse ball, at the end of a training session. We recommend 10 minutes of post-run mobility to start!

Distance Running Tips: Forget Your Paces!

Trail marathon training tips

Your “moderate effort pace” or “max V02 pace” will be meaningless when you hit the trails.

As we mentioned, these hills and obstacles will greatly alter the number on your watch.

Use your general level of effort and sense of intensity as your guide!

If you’re going for a “moderate” run that day, then run at a speed that allows you to keep moving and achieve that. Our paces constantly have to change to match the part of the trail we’re on, so use your own sense of energy output as your guide.

The good news is you’ll gain great control over your pace as you go. The more time you spend on the trails, the easier it will be to understand how and when to push your speed.

Distance Running Tips: Enjoy The Journey!

Transition from Road to Trail

Like we said, this switch is tough.

And not a lot of runners will ever make the transition.

Give yourself some credit!

These trails are hard.

Climbing 1200 feet in just 2 miles is never going to be easy! And that’s why we love it.

These challenges build us into stronger, more equipped runners.

And probably the best part of it all… it’s gorgeous out there! No matter where the trail is, it’s out in the middle of nature, away from the stoplights and cars and polluted air. It’s a place where you, the runner can focus and challenge yourself on a daily basis.

Check out this video of Coach Nate struggling up his first trail marathon out here in Northern California. See…it’s hard for EVERYONE!

It’s not easy, but it’s totally worth it! We guarantee that you’ll see this for yourself.

…and maybe you’ll even start to understand those crazy people who run 100 miles at a time 🙂

How to Transition from Road to Trail

For sticking with us to the end, check out our range of various running workout plans! Running, strength & mobility workouts designed just for you! No equipment necessary.


  • Yousef

    Thanks a lot!! I was searching for some tips for a marathon. Now i will combine with my program http://bit.ly/2EJects , that help me to improve my speed and resistance. That technique is an expert trainning used in NFL, THANKS!!!!