We all know that having good cardio fitness makes riding your dirt bike easier, and running is one of the most efficient forms of cardio exercise. When you mention running to most riders an instant grimace crosses their face, but running off-road can be enjoyable without the boredom of pounding the pavement.
The variability of trail running is challenging, but has a decreased impact on your joints and back because it takes place on a softer surface. During a typical trail run your heart rate can range from 70 to 95 percent of maximum, which can give you great fitness benefit in a short amount of time. Another big advantage is the strong core and balance you develop by a changing terrain of hills, roots, rocks and narrow twists and turns. Here are a few tips to get you started:
Keep Your Eyes Open. Like riding off-road, diligently scan the trail about five to 10 yards ahead of your feet.
Shoes. Just like different types of dirt require different tires, you need specific trail running shoes. They have sturdier, stickier treads, more lateral support and flexibility. Other than shoes, essential gear doesn’t have to be anything more than comfy shorts, an old moto tee and socks that will never be white again.
Start With Shorter Runs. Give your body time to progress and adapt to the new demands. Run two or three times a week to begin with, and build a base.
There’s No Shame In Walking. Especially when first starting out. One approach is to run the flats and downhills but hike briskly up the hills. Even the most elite-level trail runners will walk up steep hills.
Run Tall. It is more difficult for the lungs to work in a bent-over position.
Focus On Time, Not Distance. Normal pace for trail running is 15 to 20 percent slower than on the pavement.
Be Loose Downhill. Stop braking and allow gravity to work for you. Allow yourself to fly a little. Think about landing quickly and lightly.
Relax Up Hills. Shorten your stride and plant your entire foot. Running on your toes kills your calf muscles. Keeping your eyes focused on the crest of the hill will keep your momentum going forward.
Hydrate. For anything over an hour, take water. Either a handheld water bottle or hydration pack will do.
Diminish Your Risk. Plot out your run before you go. Let someone know where you’re going and when you’ll be back. Happy trails!
Sandra Egger has been a member of the USA Junior Olympic Ski Team, an NCAA cross-country runner, competitive road cyclist and professional cross-country mountain bike racer. As Director Sportiff of the Specialized mountain bike team, the team captured Olympic medals, several UCI World Championships and the prestige of being ranked the UCI number one team. Sandra has been training Wil Hahn (pictured) of Geico Powersports Honda for the past six years, and she regularly competes in trail running events, enjoys riding dirt bikes and believes that overall fitness and a healthy lifestyle can improve your moto experience.