Take precautions when exercising on trails

An off-road experience can be both exhilarating and a welcome change of venue for a good workout. This especially applies to athletes who exercise in areas where fall color changes are beautiful and the climate is moderate.

Safety measures such as wearing bright, visible colors, trail knowledge and adequate nourishment can be applied to almost all trail sports, but some precautions are specific to trail running and hiking:

• Stretching and warm-up: Even if this is done as part of a normal pre-run routine, special attention should be made before moving to rough terrain. Specifically, the feet and ankles become more vulnerable to injury on an irregular surface. Suddenly inverting the ankle can result in torn ligaments. Small muscles of the feet will be more prone to strain. The best way to loosen these muscles is by rocking forward and backward from heel to toe.

• Footwear: As opposed to typical running shoes, trail shoes have higher ridges for more traction. This helps when climbing and descending steep inclines.

• Adjust speed-running: Off-road requires a slower, more careful pace than road running. Hidden, wet surfaces, along with varying terrain, demand more attention.

• Avoid distractions: Many runners like to listen to music while on the road. While this may be safe in a controlled environment like a running track, it can be a dangerous distraction on a trail. Sound provides important information when running off-road and typically these natural sounds provide part of the enjoyment.

The fall season in New England provides an outstanding opportunity for workout variation. It is also a perfect setting to begin a new outdoor activity along with friends. Planning an outdoor adventure with safety in mind goes a long way.

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