If you want to try trail running this fall, put these tips into practice for a successful, injury-free run that burns major calories while working your glutes!

Uphill Running Tips

When trails are steep, breathing becomes harder, legs fatigue more quickly, and you tend to feel every painstaking step. A few mental and physical cues can help the hills feel less mighty and more manageable.

  • Stand tall. Folding over at the hips and dropping your head to look at your feet compresses the air flow from your diaphragm and lungs to your nose and mouth. Try to maintain as flat a back as possible by staying in an upright position.
  • Quick feet. Shortening your stride and taking quick steps help maintain efficiency on climbs. Short strides also help keep you in a more upright position.
  • Drive those arms. Power and momentum comes from a strong arm swing, so pump away to help propel your lower body.
  • Walk. There is no shame in walking up a steep trail. Walking, in fact, is sometimes the faster and more efficient way to get up a hill. 
  • Walk with purpose. If you change your stride from a run to a walk, make each step powerful and purposeful, and continue to try to maintain an upright body position.

Everybody’s got a mountian to climb

There are various approaches to body positioning and stride when climbing steep trails. Some runners prefer one way over the other, but most opt for a variety of the following, depending on the gradient of the hill.

Keep Running (albeit slowly)

  • Pros:
    •  Maintains momentum, physically and mentally
  • Cons:
    • Can be slower than power hiking
    • Keeps heart rate high, which leads to overall fatigue
    • It’s tough

Power Walking (with arms swinging)

  • Pros:
    • Maintains optimal airflow for hard-breathing effort
    • Slows heartrate to save energy
    • Arm swing adds momentum
  • Cons
    • Upper body doesn’t get a break
    • Takes more effort than walking with hands on hips or knees

Power Walking (with hands on hips)

  • Pros:
    • Maintains optimal airflow for hard breathing effort
    • Slows heart rate to save energy
    • Gives arm and upper body a break
  • Cons:
    • No upper-body momentum

Power Walking (with hands on knees)

  • Pros:
    • Ability to push knees with each step adds power
    • Slows heart rate to save energy
    • Gives arm and upperbody a break
    • Provides stretch in the low back
  • Cons:
    • Bent-over position compresses airflow
    • Hunching can make back ache

All Downhill from Here

Downhill trails—whether smooth or technical—intimidate some and look like playgrounds to others. To master the downhill, focus on the following cues.

  • Chill out. Staying relaxed is key to running well downhill. Embrace the terrain ahead to keep minimal tension in your body.
  • Keep those arms wide. A wide arm swing adds balance, each arm countering weight shifts in your footing and body position.
  • Try a shorter stride. Quick, frequent steps allow you to pick through technical terrain. And on smooth downhill trails, quick steps keep you from overextending hamstrings and pulling on hips.
  • Keep weight over your hips. Resist the temptation to sit back on a downhill and put the brakes on with your quads. Keeping your weight over your hips keeps your momentum forward and muscles in your legs and core engaged to maintain control.

(Republished with permission of VeloPress from Trailhead: The Dirt on All Things Trail Running by Lisa Jhung with illustrations by Charlie Layton. For more, visit velopress.com/trail.).