Trail Running for Weight Loss: What Beginners Need to Know- by Maddison Gilbert

17 May, 2024 03:25 By: Ceri Rees

Trail running is a sport that takes place on unpaved surfaces such as dirt tracks and forest paths, often in mountainous terrain. Several studies have documented that running on natural surfaces such as irregular trails requires higher energy expenditure and metabolic cost, which translates to higher training intensity and higher aerobic training adaptations. Therefore, trail running could be a useful strategy for advanced energy output and weight loss, leading to fitness improvements like better motor control at a lower perceived exertion.

For beginners, trail running may seem like a daunting activity. So, in this article, we'll explore everything beginners need to know about trail running for weight loss, from essential gear and safety tips to training strategies and nutritional considerations. 

The basics of trail running

First, let’s discuss a few basics before heading out on your first trail run. Trail running is extremely demanding, requiring both sprinting capabilities and muscular strength to navigate uneven terrain and steep inclines. Typically, more experienced trail runners preparing for a fell season need a varied training approach that includes building an aerobic base, hill training, interval sessions, and plyometric exercises, as we discussed in a previous post.

However, for beginners, it’s best to simply focus on conditioning and getting your body acclimated to the demands of the trails. Importantly, you must set realistic objectives and foster a resilient mindset, prioritising enjoyment and persistence over fixating on results. Here are a few tips tailored for beginners that will get you started on a sustainable journey on the trails.  

Start with an easy trail and gear you already have

For your first trail run, go for a shorter distance with smoother trails – think no huge elevation changes and relatively even terrain. Pick an area you’re already familiar with, maybe a local hiking trail or dog walking path close to home. In terms of gear, mountain athlete and certified running coach Tara Warren suggests starting off with running shoes and training clothes that you already own. Then, as you develop trail confidence and begin to feel more comfortable, invest in gear that will keep you safe when tackling more complex terrain. Shoe fit and performance are highly personalised, but some common features to look out for are deep treads on the soles to enhance traction on slick terrain. When the time comes, pay a visit to an outdoor gear store where the staff can offer advice on the best shoe for you. 

Supplement training with a structured weight loss programme

Fuelling and hydrating properly are essential for sustained energy and performance on the trails. Eat a balanced meal or snack containing carbohydrates, protein, and healthy fats 1-2 hours before your run, and replenish with water or electrolyte beverages during and after your run. If you’re unsure how to tackle nutrition for weight loss as a trail runner, look for weight loss classes near you. Reputable programmes offer science-backed and expert-led guidance on nutrition, portion control, and healthy eating habits. This way, you can make informed choices about food and fuel your body effectively for running and weight loss. Additionally, some workshops provide a supportive community and accountability system that can motivate beginner trail runners.  

Get personalised training with trail running apps

As trail runners progress, training needs become more complex to avoid boredom, plateauing, and injuries. Training programmes from apps like Vert.Run can help, allowing users to track their runs, including distance, space, elevation gain, and burned calories. It also has features like creating a personalized weekly trail run training schedule that fits your lifestyle and takes into account recovery, which is integral for avoiding overuse injuries. Additionally, tracking progress can help users identify patterns, strengths, and areas for improvement in their training. 

Trail running holds immense potential for beginners looking to shed pounds and improve their overall fitness levels. As you venture into this invigorating activity, remember that consistency is key – gradually increase your mileage while listening to your body's cues and fuel your runs with a balanced diet rich in whole foods to optimise energy levels and recovery.



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