I love trail running with my dog Wrigley. It is a great alternative to a road run which I do the rest of the year. It is also a great alternative to the gym. A trail run works different muscles than a typical road run. It provides a cross training benefit which can help keep you healthy instead of injury prone during a long running season. When you hit the trails you are probably going to run at a slower pace than you would for a flat road run. I typically run about 8 minutes a mile comfortably on the road. On the trails that number can be anywhere from 10 minutes a mile or slower. But because of the terrain you certainly don’t feel like you are taking it easy. The major difference is your focus. On a road run I can often wear headphones and just kind of zone out. On the trails, you have to keep your eyes on the next step because of the tree roots, rocks, mud, or whatever other terrain can cause you to shift gears. Mentally, you really have to concentrate on a trail run. Sometimes on a downhill part its almost as if you are running put putting on the brakes at the same time. You will have to lead with your heals in short choppy steps in order to prevent sliding down the hill on your backside. If you can you should invest in a pair of trail running sneakers. I use the Brooks Cascadia Cascadia 6. Trail running shoes have a gritty sole that grips when you hit the trails on uncertain surfaces. The bottoms of the shoes are not flat like road running shoes. They also a bit heavier and sturdier than my road running shoes. Just by switching sneakers once a week on a run that provides a great benefit to you feet and lower legs. It will prevent stress fractures and overtraining injuries.
Wrigley is an American Bulldog. They are sensitive to heat because of their pushed in noses. For her, I can’t bring her on a run unless it’s under about 58 degrees. My trail running season usually starts about November 1st. Once snow hits the trails and it is cold enough to stay then I am usually done for the winter because the snow leaves the trails too dangerous and too hard to stay on track. In a typical year I trail run from November 1st until about Christmas. Maybe I will get 8 weeks. This winter has been so mild that I might get an entire season out of it. In North Jersey we haven’t had any snow at all. It’s been amazing for my trail runs. Wrigley is a great running partner because she keeps me motivated. She knows when the weekend is here because we sleep in a little longer. When Saturday and Sunday morning comes and I walk downstairs in my running gear she gets pretty excited. When the hat and the gloves go on then she gets really excited. If I run out of the house without her she gets hysterical. Wrigley had two knee surgeries in 10 months. It is somewhat common for the breed type. So last year she was not cleared to run. After a slow rehab of just walking and then walking on hills she was finally cleared to return to running after about 9 months. It was a half mile at first but this year I have done as much as 7 miles with her. Generally we stay between 3 and 5 miles. When we first started running I used to run her off leash. We never had any problems and she would never run away or anything but I didn’t want to take a chance with her maybe running into another dog or a wild animal. I recently found a leash that the human wears like a belt and it attaches to the dog’s collar with a bungee cord that provides a little stretch. It also has a “fanny pack” that I wear under my shirt. (Don’t worry). The brand name is OllyDog and you can get it at REI. It comes in super handy because I can carry treats for Wrigley which she is thankful and I can carry my phone for which my wife is thankful.
In this area we have quite a few trails options. I love Lewis Morris Park in
Morristown. http://www.morrisparks.net/aspparks/lmmain.asp. It has several trails ranging from short to as much as 7 miles that loop around in circles. If you live in Morris County go to MorrisParks.net. If you are not local to NJ and you happen to have an IPhone. Try this app by Nortface. Trailhead. It can help you find a local trail anywhere by you. So next time you want to go for a run find a trail. It will be a whole new experience and if you have a four legged friend bring her along too. It’s a great bonding experience and it will keep you both physically healthy and mentally sharp.