Beginner Mistakes On The Trails: What To Avoid

Don't make the same mistakes I did 👀

Trail running has become increasingly popular among fitness enthusiasts and nature lovers, offering an unique blend of physical challenge and scenic beauty. However, this exhilarating sport comes with its own set of challenges. Drawing from my experience as a professional running coach & trailrunner, I’ll share insights and tips to help you navigate the trails safely and effectively, whether you’re a seasoned road runner looking for a new challenge or a complete novice to (trail) running.

Inadequate Preparation

A common mistake beginner trail runners make is underestimating the difficulty of trail running. Trails are unpredictable, with uneven terrain, steep inclines, and obstacles like roots and rocks, requiring more strength, balance, and agility than road running.
Proper training is essential. Many beginners start trail running without preparing their bodies. Incorporate leg and core strength training to enhance stability and endurance. Practice runs on varied terrains to acclimate your body.


Skipping warm-ups and cool-downs is another error. Warm-ups reduce injury risk, while cool-downs promote recovery. Include dynamic stretches before and static stretches after your run and don’t forget to walk to let your heart rate go down again too. 

Inappropriate Gear

Using road running shoes instead of trail-specific shoes is a common mistake. Trail shoes have deeper treads for better grip, reinforced materials for durability, and added support for uneven surfaces. Road shoes can lead to slips and faster wear.

Wearing unsuitable clothing and not dressing in layers can cause discomfort and hazards. Trail running involves weather changes; moisture-wicking fabrics and layers help you adjust and stay comfortable.


Ignoring hydration packs or water bottles is risky, especially on longer runs. Trails often lack water sources, so carrying your own hydration is crucial to prevent dehydration. Look for a hydration vest that is not too big/ too small to avoid friction. A 5-7L vest is perfect to carry enough water with and also snacks + first aid kit. 

Ignoring Trail Etiquette

Not understanding or following trail rules can cause conflicts and safety issues. Many trails have guidelines to preserve the environment and ensure user safety. Familiarize yourself with these rules before heading out.


Failing to yield is another etiquette breach. Downhill runners should yield to those going uphill, and runners should yield to hikers and equestrians. Respecting these guidelines maintains trail harmony.


Another important one is that leaving trash on the trail spoils the natural beauty and harms wildlife. Always practice “Leave No Trace” principles by carrying out all trash, including biodegradable items like fruit peels, which can disrupt local ecosystems.

Poor Navigation Skills

Not familiarizing yourself with the trail route can lead to getting lost. Study the trail map before running and note key landmarks and turns.


Relying solely on one technology for navigation is risky due to potential battery or signal loss. Always carry an extra battery with you and let people know where you are going.


When you fail to situate yourself, don’t keep on going but go back until you recognise the path again. 

Overestimating Ability

Choosing trails beyond your fitness level can cause injury and burnout. Begin with easier trails and advance gradually as your endurance improves. 


Inappropriate pacing is common. Adjust your pace on demanding trails to conserve energy. Interval training aids in managing pace effectively.


And lastly, ignoring fatigue and overexertion risks injury. Listen to your body and take breaks when necessary. Recognize when to slow down or stop for a safer, more enjoyable run. It is also okay to do short trails or to cut your route short if you are getting tired. 

Inadequate Nutrition and Hydration

Inadequate food and water can leave you depleted, especially on long runs. Pack enough snacks and hydration to maintain energy levels and prevent dehydration.

Failing to refuel during long runs can cause energy crashes. Carry easy-to-eat snacks like energy bars, gels or dried fruit to stabilize energy levels.

And a common mistake is to neglect electrolyte balance which can lead to cramps and fatigue. Use electrolyte supplements or sports drinks, especially during hot weather or prolonged runs.

Lack of Recovery and Rest

Not allowing enough recovery time between runs can lead to overuse injuries. Incorporate rest days into your training schedule to give your body time to heal and strengthen.


Ignoring the importance of stretching and foam rolling can result in muscle tightness and decreased flexibility. Make these practices part of your post-run routine to aid recovery and prevent injury.


Overtraining and not listening to the body can lead to burnout and injury. Pay attention to your body’s signals and adjust your training intensity accordingly. Remember, rest and recovery are as crucial as the workouts themselves.

To recap it all, embarking on a trail running journey is an exciting adventure filled with challenges and rewards. By being aware of common beginner mistakes you’re already on the path to becoming a more knowledgeable and successful trail runner. To speed-up this process I have created a ‘Trailrunning for Dummies‘ course where we dive really deep into EVERYTHING that has to do with trailrunning. 


Let’s continue this journey together, exploring the trails and unlocking the joys of trail running!

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