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Just Play Kari Traa

Need a running reboot? Give trail running a try!

So, you’re not a runner. We get that. We know sometimes the treadmill can get boring, or you can tune-in to your feet pounding the pavement, which seems like torture. It can even feel like you’re a hamster in a wheel. But before you totally ditch the idea that running can be fun, have you tried hitting the trail?

Trail running can give you a little running reboot, and help rebuild a positive relationship with the activity. You can get that adrenaline pumping, endorphins rushing, and shed those negative associations you may have learned from past running experiences.

According to Egil W. Martinsen, who has done research on exercise and mental health, we can reignite our childish joy of being active and playing with activities we can do outside. Read more here. To inspire and encourage us to #JustPlay, we have asked our Swedish ambassador Hildur Karlsson for advice.

– Everything changed when I shifted my focus.

The Swedish ski enthusiast and outdoor blogger, Hildur (24), always loved to run and move – ever since she was a child. A few years ago, she injured her cruciate ligament in her knee, and running seemed impossible.

– For me, everything changed when I shifted my focus and realized that I didn't have to run 10 km, or push myself to death, to feel like I had to accomplish something with my run.

Hildur started trail running, which gave her a new relationship with the sport.

– Running in the wild is a completely different experience for me. First, because it is much less painful for my knee than being on a treadmill or pavement. The ground feels so much softer, and does not strain the body as much. Secondly, it is much more fun! Out there in the forest, you stimulate all your senses and are distracted by the journey of discovery of moving out and about in nature. A third advantage is that you activate many more muscles in the body, when running on rugged terrain.

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Trail Running: Trail running or offroad has many names, but in Norwegian we call it off-road running. The opposite of running on asphalt and parks.

– Don't be so strict to yourself!

Do you have tips on techniques to become a better runner?

– I'm not that strict when it comes to running technique and style. For me, it's just about getting out and doing what feels natural to me, and completely unwinding.

But to make the experience more enjoyable, she has some tips.

– Find a training friend or group at your level that you can run with. Mix-up where you run, and combine running with other activities so you don't get bored. Stop being so strict with yourself, too. A little run is better than nothing. Pay attention to how you feel that day, and run as much as you know your body can withstand that day.

How to get started with trail running?

– Start small. If you had negative experiences with running in the past, run at your level and don’t push yourself beyond your capabilities. So many people go way too hard at first, and that’s when injury can occur. Start with short walks in the natural surroundings you're distracted by and enjoy, and advance from there. The endorphins and the good feelings you're left with after a run will make you want to do it again!

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Comfort at the forefront: “Running in clothing that fits well and feels like it’s barely there helps to provide a good running experience,” says Hildur.

What kind of equipment do you need to trail run?

– Not a whole lot! As long as you have a pair of really good sneakers that relieve your legs and have good tread, and a supportive sports bra… you’re pretty much set! Just put on some comfortable workout clothes, and get out the door.

Hildur adds that the more you run, the more you’ll learn what shoes, apparel and gear fit with your running preferences.

– For me, it's about feeling as comfortable as possible. This is obviously weather dependent, but whether I'm running in tights or shorts, jacket or singlet; it's all about finding something that feels light and seamless on the body, so you hardly feel like it's there!

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Disconnecting: “I'm not that strict when it comes to technique and style. For me, it's just about getting out and doing what feels natural to me, and unwinding completely," says Hildur.

How to Fall in Love with Running:
  • Get out into nature, and run in the wild
  • Start small, feel the sense of mastery of performing short distances brilliantly, rather than pushing yourself into something that can become an unpleasant experience and at worst, cause damage
  • Don't be so hard on yourself, do what feels natural and listen to your body
  • Find a friend or group to run with
  • Vary your trips and discover new places
  • Be sure to wear good sneakers and a supportive sports bra
  • Run in comfortable workout clothes that give you complete freedom of movement
Why Run?

You'll be happy: It doesn't take more than half an hour of running to lift your mood and lower your stress levels. A study done at the University of Vermont showed that the joy that follows a workout can last a full 12 hours.

You sleep better: Regular exercise can help increase sleep quality and quantity. Researchers at Oregon State University recently conducted a study where they found that 150 minutes of active running resulted in a 65 percent improvement in sleep quality.

You could even live longer: 1-2.5 hours of running in total every week could increase your life span by 5.6 years for women, and 6.2 years for men, according to the Copenhagen City Heart Study.

Your memory can improve: 30 minutes of running, four days a week, protects the area of the brain responsible for your memory, as well as improves your ability to concentrate. Researchers at the University of Illinois in the US recently tested a group of adolescents aged 18-24m and found that they managed mental tasks much better after running on a treadmill for 30 minutes.

You get stronger: You can experiences strength improvements from muscle to mind