How Do You Train For Trail Running Without Trails? | Hikers University

If you're really into trail running, but there are no trails in your area, it begs the question, 'how do you train for trail running without trails'?

Trail running is considered to be an extreme sport, and people are very enthusiastic about it because it challenges them physically and delivers a host of benefits, including improved mental health and better general fitness. It's an opportunity for people to unwind from their lives and enjoy an outdoor expedition that produces joy and excitement. For this reason, it can be very exasperating if you want to improve at trail running, but there are no trails in your area.

The best way to train for trail running is to work on cardiovascular training and improve your diet. Joining the gym or having a training program can build your cardiovascular endurance. The right diet is vital as it fuels your training while you incorporate discipline into your routine.

Creating a training program is not easy and requires you to track your progress, which is where many people fail because they are not willing to make the commitment. Motivation may be lacking, and consistency needs to be developed, which is why we'll highlight an excellent routine for you to follow so you can begin excelling at your chosen sport. Mindset training is a bonus that accompanies these training programs, so stay tuned for more.

We have done a lot of research on the topic and considered many exercises and training programs to deliver this article in a digestible form. However, we have kept it simple because the fundamentals are important, and you do not really need to incorporate difficult exercises which do not carry over directly to the sport. So without further ado, let's explore this topic in more detail.

Table of contents


How to Train For Trail Running Without Trails?

If you’ve got a holiday or weekend trip coming up in the future and you’re feeling very excited but want to perform well on game day, it is in your best interests to devise a training program you can follow.

Trail running may not be exactly the same as running on a treadmill because you are likely to encounter uneven terrain when you're outdoors. Still, there is a significant carry-over if you've improved your cardiovascular endurance.

Another advantage of practicing on a treadmill is that you can do it in the comfort of your home or at a local gym with an encouraging atmosphere.

You can also increase the incline of your treadmill to the max and challenge yourself in that way to recruit more muscles in your legs and get used to the steepness you will likely encounter when trail running.

To summarize, using the treadmill is one way to improve your endurance and practice for trail running.

However, you need to track your progress and increase your stamina by covering greater distances and increasing your speed, which will definitely improve your trail running performance.

If you wish to replicate the trail running environment, you can start jogging outdoors.

Jogging is an excellent way to train for trail running because it elevates your heart rate and challenges your cardiovascular capacity.

If you have two months to prepare for a major trail running session, that's more than enough time to become much better than before.

You should build up your capacity slowly but be sure to make small improvements every week.

You can start with a 3-5 km jog and do that three times per week, which will do wonders for your stamina.

In fact, you will begin to see progress within a week or two, which will encourage you to take things up a notch.

You don’t really need to cover more than 5 km in a single session; instead, you should focus more on increasing your speed.

However, if you’re really psyched up for your trip, you can do 8-10 km, which will turn you into a pro.

If you really want to mimic the same conditions as a trail run, you can find a hill in your area and practice running up and down, leading to a significant carryover to the sport.

The descent of the hill will be similar to the decline you will encounter on a trail run and will recruit and strengthen similar muscle groups.

Make a workout plan where you run up and down a hill 5-10 times, with 5-minute rest intervals.

What Meal Plan is Best For Trail Running?

The best meal plan should have a good balance of carbohydrates, fats, and protein.

However, you need to choose high-quality macronutrients to use the right fuel for your training sessions.

Complex carbohydrates are a good source of fuel because they break down slowly and do not result in large insulin spikes, which usually lead to a crash in energy levels.

You can obtain high-quality fats containing omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids from olive oil, fish, and nuts, which have many health benefits, including better joint lubrication.

The protein you consume must be high because you break down your muscles after every training session and tax your nervous system, so you need to eat protein-rich foods to recover effectively for your next workout.

Some excellent sources of protein are fish, meat, and lentils.

You will do well with a carbohydrate, protein, and fat ratio of 30:35:25.

This means that 30% of your daily calories should come from carbohydrates, 35% from protein, and 25% from fat.

You can make a list of healthy food sources and find the best recipes to create a meal plan that will lead you to your goal.

Training Program to Prepare For Trail Running

Let’s say you have a trail run coming up in 1 month; that gives you enough time to prepare.

You can divide your training program into four weeks and either make minor improvements each week or push yourself harder from the start.

We’ll consider both strategies.

Week 1

Consider keeping it simple in the first week and just seek to complete 3-5 km a few times a week.

If you lack the stamina to jog consistently for at least 1 km, you can alternate between walking and jogging.

What this means is that you might walk for 100 meters and then jog for 100 meters until you complete 3-5 km.

Or you might walk for 200 meters and jog for 100 meters, which is more suited for beginners.

Either way, if you complete 3-4 training sessions in the first week, you will see an improvement over the coming week.

Week 2

Try pushing yourself to jog for 1 km with no breaks, and take 5 minutes off before attempting the next kilometer.

This helps you to recover enough to push yourself again.

If you are still struggling to jog for 1 km consistently, you can still alternate between jogging and walking, but increase the total distance you jog compared to last week.

This means you might walk for 100 meters and jog for 200-300 meters until you complete the first kilometer.

Your jogging does not have to be fast-paced and will be enough to build up a base level of stamina for week 3.

Week 3

Week three is where we take things up a notch.

You will increase your speed to complete the first kilometer faster and take 5 minutes off before continuing.

It's best to use a stopwatch or timer to know your completion times.

By this point, even if you were initially struggling with jogging consistently for 1 km, you will be able to complete it at a slow pace.

You can take a few minutes off and repeat until you complete 3-5 km.

Ideally, you should be aiming for 5 km in week 3.

Week 4

In the final week, you will attempt to complete 3-5km at a slow pace without any breaks.

It’s not going to be easy, and you’ll discover that you’ll have to push past mental barriers to truly complete your training session.

If you started off alternating between walking and jogging in week 1, this week is where you’ll attempt to complete 1.5-2 km at a slow pace without any breaks.

Take a few minutes off and then complete your session.

Final Verdict

Trail running is essentially a cardiovascular activity, so running and jogging are the best ways to prepare for a grueling trail run.

You may have different reasons for wanting to pursue this sport, and there is no doubt that you will notice a significant improvement in your physical and mental well-being.

Spending time devising a training program you can adhere to will lead to dramatic results. Still, you should be self-motivated and hold yourself accountable if you really want to become adept at trail running.

You can also find a training buddy who shares your interest, so your workout sessions aren't dull, and you can rely on each other to push yourself beyond your limits.


Peter Brooks

Peter Brooks

I’m a hiker, backpacker, and general outdoor enthusiast. I started hiking out of college while working for the National Forest Service, and have been hiking ever since. I’ve been solo hiking and leading hiking groups for two decades and have completed hundreds of small hikes and some majorones such as the Appalachian Train and the Pacific Crest Trail, and hiked on four continents. I’d love to share some of my insight with you.

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