I have seen a lot of question on various forums about trail running and the “fall” factor as I like to call it. The question is always, how do you avoid falling while trail running? My answer to the question is…. You don’t….. Well of course you are saying to yourself now but that is preposterous and yes it is in a little way, I mean you are not preparing yourself to fall over the place while on the trail but what you do need to know what to do in case you do trip and even better how to train to better negotiate the trails so you have less chance of falling on the trail and more chance of falling for the trail!!
So question number 1: What to do when falling, so now you are thinking how the hek do I have enough time so decide what to do, well it is a quick decision, when I started running trail I always used to think it better to roll into a fall and in some cases even roll out of the fall, but with experience and time I have found the putting your hands out and just face planting has the best results, I find that I come out with less intrinsic injuries i.e. muscle pulls, twisted ankles or strains. I may come out with more extrinsic injuries, grazed hands, bleeding head etc….. but I come out of it with maybe a band aid and can get back to training asap, no breaks because of muscles been pulled or twisted ankles. Now as much as it is awesome to come out of the trail looking like you burrowed your way though it is better to stay on your feet ;-) so this brings us to question number 2: How do I make myself more steady on the trail? Well from my point of view, there are three basic things you need to do….1) Run on the trails, there is no better way to learn how to handle the trails better than to experience them and become more confident on them, running on the trails teaches your body to adapt to sudden changes and respond correctly, fast lefts and rights, quick ups and downs, uneven ground, your body needs to learn to run differently to the way you run on the road and as you tackle all these obstacles your body takes notes and you get more confident and able to handle them…. 2) Get fitter, the fitter and stronger you get the easier it is to stay up right, my first year of trail running was plagued with falls, I was relatively unfit for the trails and was running as I would on the road, when I got tired the first thing that happened is I started dragging my feet, now scraping your feet on the tar is one thing, scraping them on the trail….. you are gonna see your ass, and I did on more than one occasion, don’t think that 10km on the road is 10km on the trail, yes in reality it is but on some trails you could equate to running double the distance on the road…… since I have got fit I run much better and fall much less, so the first two things, train on the trails and get fitter and stronger which of course involves, LSD, intervals (hills and track,) gym, basically all the normal stuff…… now for number 3) I invest in agility training, at my gym they have a boxing rail with a few bags suspended, I do drills where I move the bags and the zigzag between them, avoiding them, this exercise brings all sorts of new muscles into play. I also do ballistic jumps, they are amazing at activating those muscles that are used all the time on the trail, do ankle and foot strengthening workouts to, strong ankles are invaluable on the trail.
On the trail, all of the above is useless if you don’t enjoy being there, you have to build the confidence, poise, assurance, coolness (Whatever you want to call it) on the trail and you will enjoy and exist in harmony for most of the time without it taking you out.
We have started a new group on Face Book called Trails Unlimited where we will tackle “need to know” stuff like this. Click on the link below and like the page and add your 2% to the site.