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Trail Running Tips

Posted by: on March, 13 2012
7 all-terrain tips for your off-road steps
By Brian Metzler for Mens Health:  Pretend you’re in a slasher flick, being chased through the woods by a chain saw-wielding madman. Twigs are snapping, and you’re stumbling over rocks and ducking under tree limbs until, inevitably, you trip on a root.

Crack goes your ankle, whap goes your body on the hard dirt.  The madman catches up, the camera pans up to the full moon, and the screen fades to black.

That would never happen to Dave Mackey. As the 2003 U.S. 50-mile trail-running champion and a four-time winner of the grueling Breckenridge Crest Trail Marathon in Colorado, Mackey runs on rocks like sprinters run on rubber tracks. He would have used short, compact strides to elude his pursuer. He would have spotted the root yards in advance. He would have ultimately left the freak doubled over and sucking wind.

If you want to run in the jungle, there’s a steep price of admission, payable through either preparation or E.R. visits. That’s why we chased Mackey through the woods near Boulder, Colorado, in search of seven ways to get dirt-worthy faster.

1. Don’t Rush Into Anything
Your first time trail-running is like your first time in the sack with a woman: It’ll probably end sooner than you hoped. And if things go wrong, there might be first aid involved. That’s okay, says Mackey. It takes time to get comfortable, to know when to accelerate and when to coast. On your virgin run, aim for 75 percent of your normal pace, paying attention to landmarks (sharp left after the walnut tree, watch out for jagged boulder). As you transition from the roads to dirt, you can work your way up to 100 percent effort; it takes time to learn the technical side of trail running. You’ll be surprised at how much speed you can pick up once you know what’s coming.

2. Keep Your Back Straight
Big hills leave even the best trail runners sucking wind. Your natural reaction is to hunch forward like Quasimodo, but that’s a great way to keep your lungs from getting a full tank of gas. So do like Mackey and let your ankles adjust to the incline, keeping your back erect and using powerful, compact arm swings to propel yourself up the trail. “I shorten my stride by a third or more but maintain the same cadence,” says Mackey. Since you’re moving more slowly, you won’t need to look as far down the trail. But resist the temptation to watch your feet as you climb. Feet really aren’t that interesting.

Read more at Men’s Health: http://www.menshealth.com/fitness/trail-running-tips/page/2