How to Train for Trail Running Without Trails

Running up hill

“My feet have several thousand meetings scheduled with dirt on a trail not far from here. Who am I to keep them waiting? Time to run!” Jeb Dickerson

Trail running provides an opportunity to explore new terrain and broaden your horizons. On the trails, you may forget about pace and miles and instead focus on the journey. However, you need proper training for trail running, but ‘what if you don’t have trails?’ It might be disappointing, or perhaps you think, ‘Is it possible to progress on trails unless you have access to them?’

This post will guide you on how to train for trail running without trails. You only need to figure out the methods; for instance, you may run on the treadmill while increasing your elevation, or you may locate a nearby hill and run up and down on it will also increase your elevation.

Also, if you can find a little path, run laps on it, even just half a mile long. It may sound not very interesting, but it’s a solid starting point. To add some extra interest, performing turns is the other way, rotate speeds, and perform tempo runs, fartleks, and base speed workouts.

Another way is to begin by scouring the area around your house for nearby trails. Then, use those trails as regularly as possible. Traveling to a location where everything you need is present is also an option when all else fails. 

This guide will help you in the journey of trail training, especially when you do not have access to trails. It will also bring several advantages for your body and help you if you are tired with your same old running routine every day. 


5 Ways of Trail Running Training without Trails

Trail running requires some strategy, even if you have trails or no trails. Firstly, you need to analyze all the factors needed for the trail running training, which you can access easily without trails. 

Multiple ways train you for trail running.

Some of the valuable ways are mentioned below:

●    Unpaved Harsh Surface

Even if you are not on quality running trails, you may still get some good trail running workouts on the unpaved, harsh surface. Look for gravel roads and broad shoulders on dirt; in rural and urban areas. There are also likely some hidden single-track trail portions in your region if you seek them – tiny parts such as cut-throughs between homes, short trails, or accessible bike routes might give good trail practice to prepare you for trail running.

●    Weight Training and Strength Exercises

Focus on weight training and strength exercisesOpens in a new tab. if you have no access to trails yet have time for complete workouts. These exercises focus on the muscles you use when you run on trails. It may come in very handy when you head out on the trails. These activities are equally effective in strengthening and preventing injury to the muscles you use daily for trail runners. 

The core strength and balance required for trail running are greater than road running when you need to leap off boulders, descend steep hills, or boost yourself up a climb. Following are the pieces of training and strength exercises you may practice:

● Lift one bent leg off the ground while balancing on the other slightly bent leg, then straighten your arms in front of you. On the standing leg, hop-forward and backward. Then, change the sides alternatively.

● Standing straight up with one leg slightly raised is a single leg balance. Move the lifted leg forward or to the side gradually. For a more enhanced form of this practice, close your eyes.

●  Squats with a pistol grip: While standing on one leg, extend your arms straight in front of you. Now squat down and straighten the raised leg. Rep many times before changing sides.

● Plank with forearms and hands on the ground: Lie face down with elbows under your shoulders and forearms and hands on the floor. You can lift your hips above the ground by supporting your weight on your forearms and toes. Maintain as much rigidity and straightness as possible in your body.

● Lie down your back with your hands behind your head and raise your legs to your chest, bringing your knees to your chest. Raise your shoulder bones off the floor and stretch your right leg, bringing your right shoulder nearer your bowed left knee. Reverse the sides.

● Lie on your right side, stacking your legs. Arrange your right elbow beneath your right shoulder, with your forearm parallel to your upper arm. Lift your body until your weight is evenly distributed between your right forearm, precisely beneath your shoulder, and the side of your right foot. Keep your hips raised and straight to your upper legs and body.

Treadmill training

●    Running on Treadmill or Hiking

One option for improving leg strength, even if you don’t have trails, is trekking. It also gives you a choice to change up your exercises more by running on a treadmill with elevation or outside on an incline or mild slope. You can even include hiking intervals on these. Calf-strengthening intervals should begin with modest durations to avoid leg discomfort.

●    Do Some Weights

The only way to make hiking more challenging is to include weight on your back. Even while achieving this in your own house may be possible, you could do it utilizing flights of stairs and with paint buckets or gallon jugs of water as your weight. Additionally, this method is ideal for those runners who are busy with work and can’t get to the track frequently.

●    Add Some Obstacle

Each run may nevertheless have obstacles resembling those seen on a path. Climb over the large rock on the side of the road rather than rushing past it, weave your route around street lamps as if they were trees in the woods. If you have a backyard, even a tiny area may accommodate a single track loop. You can still be creative by jumping over logs, odd roots, rocks, a child’s picnic table, sprinting in a sandbox, or performing a flying leap in a kiddie pool.


Several Treadmill Workouts for Trail Running Training

Trail running is popular, but it’s not common for everyone to access trails and even hills, much alone mountains. Many individuals must train through the winter and live in places such as the Prairies or the deep center of the sprawling suburbs. Therefore, a treadmill workout is a beautiful substitute for trail running training, as it takes the strain and stress out of a rigorous training routine.

 For treadmills, the secret is to vary the types of workouts. Strive for change by always doing different workouts and altering your treadmill or inclines and tempos. You don’t want to be sedentary and demotivated when working out; here we go with several alternating treadmill workouts.

● Choose a predefined program from the machine’s list. Set the treadmill’s “hill” or “Trail” setting, and while you run, you will slowly raise and reduce the treadmill’s inclination. In addition to that, extended sessions are made more engaging by alternating with shorter breaks to keep things fresh and decrease the chance of an overuse injury.

● Find out how long you have run races where you tackled challenging ascents. Find your top speed while hiking on a treadmill set to the maximum or equivalent inclination. To get an accurate assessment of your climbing ability, go ahead and count as many ascents as you can. Hydration breaks should be taken between each climb so that you can get accurate estimates of your climbing ability. Remember that the usual hiking length is around 3 to 6 kilometers.

● On the treadmill, perform a tracking exercise. The majority of treadmills are calibrated in miles, not kilometers, and 1 mile also equals 1600 meters, or four laps, as you are undoubtedly well aware. Thus, you may perform your preferred ladder workout by just keeping an eye on the mileage meter and changing your temperature accordingly.

How to Build Stamina for Trail Running?

An effective training regimen that incorporates on and off-road running will help you increase your trail running stamina and speed. Because you alternate between running on and off the road, you can improve your physical abilities while focusing on improved foot speed, recovery, and endurance for both road and off-road running. 

If you intend on racing on the roads and trails, it is also highly crucial to use the correct running shoe. Here are some more tips to increase your stamina for trail running:

● Start with developing your trail fitness. Starting on a well-groomed route will make it easier to transition to more challenging and technical trails.

● Since you’ll be running on the groomed trails, your pace should be dictated by exertion or how you feel. That will let you feel the difference in run times at varied paces. To allow your body to adjust more quickly, maintain your trail runs on an easy-to-moderate effort.

● In a road race, go long, fast, and accessible. On rough terrain, your walking pace will decrease as your body adjusts to the changes in terrain. You must offset this by doing high-intensity intervals 3-4 times per week or every other week to retain your road-running fitness.

● Include balance and strength exercises. The beauty of trail running is that each stride is unique. Your right foot may land on an angle one step and then jump over a root the next. So, before running more technical terrain, build up your strength and balance. It will help you avoid ankle injuries and offer you a stronger sense of control as you learn to navigate nature. Squats, lunges, and standing balancing are terrific single-leg workouts, as are planks and mountain climbers.

● Make a track path of your own. If you don’t have access to a trail, travel to your local park and use other things to imitate a challenging single-track route. While waiting to cross the street, you can run along the beach on the sand, leap up on benches, climb steps, and hop laterally for 15 seconds while on the benches.


Lifting for trail running.

Benefits of Trail Running 

Everyone can get endless benefits from trail running. Regular trail running should be a crucial component of your overall training plan, whether you’re racing on the road, track, cross-country, or trails. 

There are several benefits to hiking the trailsOpens in a new tab.: enhanced strength and stability, higher running efficiency, fewer injuries, improved balance, enhanced muscular endurance, clears a cluttered mind and creates a stronger mind-body connection, and whatnot.

Is Trail Running better than Road Running?

Every time you move from road or flat pavement to trail or mountainous terrain, your body and mind both have to cope with more stress. Due to the uneven terrain and greater verticalsOpens in a new tab., you’ll expend more energy.

Be mindful of the terrain, footing, and animals when you’re out on the trails. Because you can’t just repeat the same stride while zoned out, your stride changes with the path.

Most runners prefer road running to trail running because it is more convenient than driving to a place. The road is built of asphalt or concrete; both of these mediums are quite tough on the body.

In contrast to running on trails, off-trail running is pure nature-on-nature. You will have to run through unrestrained natural terrain. This might be more therapeutic than running on traditional trails. It might require more focused attention on surroundings and tripping dangers.

Trail runners develop superb balance, quick reflexes, and a solid core to support their legs as they jump and move in unexpected directions to negotiate natural obstacles.


Trail Running Techniques

Trails provide their own unique set of obstacles in comparison to paved surfaces. Rocks, logs, and roots are among the most common difficulties. This sort of terrain may be tackled with some techniques. Such as:

● Using a short stride is advantageous in comparison to running on the road. To keep balance on uneven terrain, you must keep your feet on the ground. Don’t overextend yourself.

● While scanning the route ahead of you, keep your gaze at a distance of 10 to 15 feet from the ground. Keep your eyes off your feet.

● Go ahead and swing your arms. This aids with centering and balance, especially in your core.

● How many difficulties do you foresee? Like a goat, travel where you perceive the most sure-footed path.

● When the terrain gets steep, you should cut your stride short. You should try to maintain your pace by walking in short, numerous steps.

● Be careful not to slouch. If you find yourself leaning forward on uphills, avoid doing so since this might decrease your capacity to get enough oxygen. Leaning back on downhills can put unnecessary strain on your body, and this can lead to injury.

Skipping training for trail running

Essential Requirements for Trail Running

Getting away from crowded areas, trading traffic noise for the sounds of nature, breathing in the fresh air, and jogging through the gorgeous landscape are all reasons why trail running is becoming increasingly popular. However, to have a great trail run, you must think of a few trails running necessities before you get started.

  1. Trail Shoes
  2. Gloves and protective headgears
  3. Warm clothes
  4. Jacket for running
  5. Navigator
  6. Food
  7. First aid kit
  8. Backpack
  9. Emergency light for night trails
  10. Water



‘Just because you can’t prepare flawlessly for an event doesn’t mean you shouldn’t participate in it; nevertheless, you should go into it with reasonable expectations.

Same way, it doesn’t matter if you have access to trails or not for trail running training. You can practice it by exercising, running on an inclined treadmill, finding any rough path to run on, and adding obstacles on the way.

Always remember that you don’t need to have access to everything, everywhere; try to adjust to the availability and make the most of it. And if your daily routine makes it impossible to go to trails, develop a schedule that helps you train yourself for trail training. 

Adding to that, if you need a detailed and comprehensive guide to know how to train for trail running without trails, then the above article is the best option for you. By following this guide, you will not be disappointed on your race day. 

Diego Nieves

I’m Diego Nieves, an outdoor sports enthusiast. In 2013, I was overweight, unhealthy, and unhappy. I knew my life had to change, and that's when I discovered Obstacle Course Racing (OCR). It gave me the discipline and set of principles to continue the path to health. Now, I’m exploring even more ways to enjoy the outdoors, and I want to bring you along on my journey.

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