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How Trail Runners Train

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Runners use different training techniques depending on what style of running they're going to do: professional racing, marathon running, cross country running and so forth. Trail running involves a particular style of training. Here's how you can train to run trails.

1. Lift Weights

Not all of your trail running training occurs in the outdoors. Join a gym or buy home weight equipment, because lifting weights is a great way to cross train for trail running. Squats, hamstring curls, calf raises and quad extensions all strengthen the muscles of your legs.

2. Ride a Bike

Cycling is a great way to tone leg muscles and improve leg strength. Ride for a mile or two at least twice a week. Ride over difficult terrain if possible; keep pushing yourself.

3. Run Off-Road

Running on trails isn't the same thing as running on professional racetracks or roads. The terrain is rough and you'll have to practice running up and down hills. Practice running on trails at least twice a week. Pay attention to where you put your feet and take it easy until you're accustomed to the requirements of the trail.

4. Practice Running up Hills

Trail runners have to run up hills. You'll need to practice this by setting aside time in your training routine to run uphill. Lean into the slope and use shorter strides to make running uphill less of a chore.

5. Vary Your Training Schedule

Mix it up. Take short runs some days and long runs on other days. Run mostly uphill some days and run mostly on flat trails other days. Cross train with weight lifting, cycling and swimming on yet other days. Varying your training schedule not only keeps you from getting bored, it also ensures that you won't overwork one muscle group to the detriment of the others.

6. Take Care of Yourself

The most important aspect of any athletic training schedule is to take good care of yourself. Eat properly and make sure you get plenty of protein to help build and repair your muscles. Remember that you'll also need lots of fat and complex carbs for energy. A varied diet of lean meats, dairy products, whole grains, fruits, vegetables, beans and legumes is best.

Stay hydrated. The average adult needs six to eight cups of water a day, but if you're training hard, and especially if the weather is hot, you may need more.

Drink 16 to 24 ounces of water about 90 minutes before your training session. Continue to drink water while training. If you take gulps rather than sips and remember to breathe deeply and fully while training, you can avoid stomach cramps. Drink water after your session as well. If you become dehydrated, you'll suffer from lowered energy levels and muscular weakness, and there could even be more serious effects.

Look after your feet. Watch your step when running on trails. Check your feet daily for blisters and bruises, especially under the nails, and treat them appropriately.

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