How to start trail running if you are a committed road runner - photo of runners in a field

How to start trail running if you are a committed road runner

How to start trail running if you are a committed road runner - photo of runners in a field

If you are used to running on the road, through well lit streets with clear paths, taking that first step on a trail run can feel a little daunting.

What if you get lost? What if the path disappears? And, what about those trespassers will be prosecuted signs?

So here are my tips to help you feel more confident to start trail running.

Start with a well marked path

Trail running isn’t all about running in the wilderness and up mountains. It can be just stepping off the road onto a well marked footpath through a maintained parkland. Your local park or common may have footpaths that take you through small copses, woodlands and around lakes.

Starting somewhere more familiar will help you build confidence without worrying about getting lost.

Join a guided trail run

Guided trail runs are a great way to explore the countryside as someone else has organised the route for you and has done all the planning. All you have to do is turn up, run and enjoy the views!

My summer guided trail runs in Waddesdon are perfect for anyone who wants to try trail running for the first time. They are social runs, focused on the experience of the trails.

And there many other groups around the country who organise runs of various distances and even multi day adventures.

Use the OS app

The Ordnance Survey app is a fantastic resource for would be trail runners.

It can help you to plan a route in advance and workout where the footpaths near you lead to. And if you think you might have taken a wrong turn it will pin point you on the map so you can see if you are heading in the right direction.

The app covers the whole of the UK so you can even use it to find routes when you are away from home.

Enjoy the adventure

Don’t be afraid to follow the footpath sign. If you see a sign to a path and want to know where it goes, go and have a little peak. You can always go back the way you came to continue on your original route.

Some of my favourite trail runs are the ones where I’ve seen a sign that I hadn’t noticed before and changed my route mid run. Or found a pathway blocked or flooded and had to work out another way to get back home.

Of course, having the OS Map app makes it easier to make those changes.

Build your strength

Whether you run on road or trail, you should be including some form of strength work into your routine. Strength work will help you run stronger, for longer and lessen the aches you may experience after a run.

And strength work is even more important when you start to run off road. The paths can be uneven, there may be tree roots that need to be dodged, there is often more mud, all of which means your body is working harder to keep you upright as you run.

Adding a weekly workout that helps with ankle mobility and strength, fires up your glutes, engages your core and works on your balance will be of huge benefit once you go off road, and will really help you on road too.

I include tailored strength work with my coaching for runners. And building strength for running is a key part of the HCR® Fit to Run programme.

Do you like running on the trails? What are your tips for road runners who want to try trail running for the first time?

Leave a Comment


  • Lauren Walden-Pidding

    Don’t compare trail running times to road running times. You may find trail runs maybe slightly slower but help you build strength and stamina.

    • Coach Nicola

      A really good tip! And that strength and stamina can then help you on the road.

  • Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *