Tips and Tricks for Lake Hopatcong Trail Running

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The Lake Hopatcong region has miles of trails that have been created for both the hiker, and the runner. In the following article Joe Dylan shares best practices for when running the trails.

By Joe Dylan: Trail running is not like road running and it’s important to treat it as such. It can be exhausting and can take as much as double the time of a road run, especially in the beginning.

When you’re new to trail running, it’s important to keep the pace slow as you find your rhythm. You’ll soon develop a sense of being part of your environment and begin to fly up hills you used to walk up.

Here are some tips and tricks to improve your trail running experience.

Workout before you start

Once you find your rhythm and really begin to enjoy your trail running experience, it’s time to up your game by refining your technique and building strength and balance. Add some exercises to your running routine a few times a week. You could incorporate lunges, bridges, squats, and calf raises into your training regime. This will help you develop foot and ankle strength and stability. As you get stronger, try adding resistance bands or free weights for a bigger challenge and better results.

Location, location, location

Be patient with yourself and begin slowly. Trail running is an endurance sport, not a sprint. Your body needs time to adapt so you need to slowly build your abilities.

Increasing your training or trail difficulty too quickly can result in burning out or injuries and downtime. Remember, there is no shame in walking up hills in the beginning!

Build up slowly but surely and eventually, you’ll be amazed at your strength and stamina.

Trail difficulties

Every trail is unique and has its own set of challenges. There are wide, prepared trails that have been created to serve as an ideal introduction to off-road running, these are relatively easy and a good place to start.

There are also narrower, more challenging singletrack trails with various obstacles like hills, rocks, tree roots, and mud. These trails give the runner a dynamic experience and should be treated more carefully.

Over time, as you become more experienced with trail running, it won't be that hard anymore. In fact, you'll probably begin to enjoy the challenge that obstacles on a singletrack trail give you!

Packing for a run

Trail running takes place on all kinds of natural surfaces and can soft, hard, sharp, and slippery so it’s important to invest in good shoes. While road running requires shoes that cushion, trail running shoes usually have rigid, knobby soles that give traction and stability. Other equipment you should take with you will depend on whether you run longer or shorter trails, the weather, and the terrain. This may include:

  • · A water bottle or hydration pack
  • · Sunscreen
  • · A hat and sunglasses for sunny conditions
  • · Insect repellent spray and ivy block
  • · Cold weather gear where necessary
  • · Gaiters
  • · Some runners use crampons on their shoes for added traction in icy conditions
  • · Some use ultra-light trekking poles for added stability and speed

Trail running safety

As with any outdoor adventure, there is some risk involved. To keep as safe as possible, it’s a good idea to run with others or with a dog. If you are heading out alone, tell somebody where you will be running and take your mobile phone with for added safety. Make sure you have enough water to keep you hydrated and a map of the trail if it’s not familiar to you.

Being out in a beautiful natural setting can be distracting, and there’s nothing wrong with stopping to enjoy the natural beauty. But, while you are running, it’s best to keep your eyes on the trail.

Trails are riddled with all kinds of obstacles and it’s really easy to trip and fall. To avoid this, focus on your path three to four feet ahead so you’ll be aware of where you’ll be stepping the next few strides. Tip: Consider downloading a safety app or use a device with safety features like an Apple Watch for added reassurance.

Stick to the rules, and have fun!

As with any other activity, there are a few rules that are important to familiarize yourself with, such as:

· Yield to other trail users like mountain bikers, hikers, and horse riders.

· Downhill runners should yield to uphill runners.

· Stay on the trail as it is marked.

· Don’t run around puddles, you’ll make the trail wider.

· Don’t litter, or leave any trace that you were there.

· Preserve the wilderness by staying clear from wildlife and plants.

Trail running is not just a sport or a form of exercise; it is as much of a mental puzzle as a physical one.

As you become more comfortable with running on trails, you’ll begin to challenge yourself mentally as well as physically. If you stick to the rules and take the tips above into consideration, you’re bound to have a lot of fun on your trail running adventures.


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