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It’s no secret that running, especially trail running, requires a lot of hard work and discipline. There’s no magic pill, and the only way improve is to actually do it. But that doesn’t mean you can’t make life a little easier and take advantage of shortcuts from time to time. So that’s what we’re focusing on today: hacks, or shortcuts, to keep you healthy and happy on the trail. Whether you are on a budget, struggling to find the time, or having issues finding good places to run there are some tricks to help you overcome all of these challenges and more.

7 Trail Running Safety Hacks

Easy Hacks for Trail Runners

1) Make Your Own Food

Let’s kick things off with a money saving hack for the runner on a budget. Those energy bars and gels aren’t cheap, and the best way to cut back is to make your own or use natural alternatives. If you’re willing to make your own, stick to high carbohydrate recipes for quick energy. Alternatively fresh madjool dates make for a quick and easy alternative to gels.

2) Run at Night

Most runners consider the hours after sunset as off limits, but it’s actually one of my favorite times to run. The vail of darkness means:
• Less crowded trails,
• Cooler temperatures, and
• More time to get in the workout.
Just grab your headlamp and tell someone where you’re going, before hitting the trail.

3) Shower With Your Clothes

Don’t have enough running clothes to make it through the week? No problem! Take your running clothes in the shower with you to give them a nice rinse before washing your body. Most running clothes are quick to dry and can handle 2-3 runs before they need a true wash.

4) Properly Lace Your Shoes

Running shoes have come a long way in recent years, but even the best don’t fit everyone’s foot the same. To help adjust shoes to your feet, make sure you’re lacing them properly. Whether your heel is slipping or the shoe feels too tight due to swelling, you can fix those problems by lacing up differently. Here are a few of my favorite lacing techniques.

5) Set Up Your Own Aid Stations

Long trail runs often require you to carry your own food and water, and depending on the distance, the gear adds up. If your route takes you across different trail access points, drop a small stash of food or gear along the route before you start running. You can stash nutrition, extra layers, or even a change of shoes if you think you’ll need it. This can save you from carrying a lot of extra weight, and provide a little peace of mind before setting off on a big adventure. Just don’t forget to follow all regulations for the area, and come back to collect all trash and gear you leave behind.

6) Upload Someone Else's Route

It’s always a good idea to carry a trail map with you on unfamiliar trails, but there’s an easier way to follow a new route than pulling out the map every 5 minutes. Follow someone else’s. Most GPS watches and running phone apps allow you to upload the coordinates and routes of other runners who have shared them on their platform. You can follow the play-by-play of another runner’s route straight from your watch or phone. To get started, check out the Strava and Map My Run apps.

7) Take Advantage of What You Have

When your run is limited by time or location, take advantage of what you do have instead of canceling it all together.
Here’s what I mean:
• Don’t have access to hills but need to get in a hill workout? Use a parking garage, long bridge, or treadmill to add elevation gain.
• Don’t have time for a full long run? Get in a short but tough workout instead. Try hill repeats, a tempo run, or fartleks.
• Don’t have access to trails near your house? Schedule long camping or retreat weekends at or near the trailheads. Log as many solid runs during those weekends as you can, and stick to the roads when you can’t.

When It’s Hard, Make It Easier. With something as difficult as trail running, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and give up all together.
Why not make it a little easier for yourself? Take advantages of hacks or shortcuts that save you time and money, and may just keep you on track.

- Doug Hay

Doug Hay is a coach, ultra runner and a blogger for the trail running blog Rock Creek Runner