A beginner's guide to trail running

A beginner's guide to trail running

The forest provides a naturally stimulating arena for trail runners in the UK

Forest Holidays


What is trail running?

Statistics* show that over 2.2 million adults are running regularly for exercise, with more and more heading off-road and into the countryside for the calming effects of beautiful scenery and smog-free air.

Trail running offers plenty of health benefits and a different experience to running on the roads through towns. Besides the chance to run free from pollution and traffic noise, the softer ground is gentler on the body, giving joints a rest from hard pavements. The constantly changing terrain is great for improving body condition as well, providing a more comprehensive workout as you shift position and use different muscles to compensate for uneven ground.

The less obvious health benefits are arguably the most important - nature has been shown to have profound effects on mental health. Trail running provides a sense of serenity and a release from stress and inner tension. According to running experts SportsShoes88% of runners find that running through nature improves their sense of wellbeing.

Book a pet friendly UK log cabin with Forest Holidays, and explore new experiences and a different challenge in each of our nine locations throughout the UK, with plenty of changing environments to run and awe-inspiring views to discover.


Whether you are new to trail running or looking for some new tracks to explore, there are plenty to choose from. Head down to beautiful Cornwall, and you'll find a selection of trails winding through the tranquil valleys of Deerpark or the sandy beaches of the nearby coast. Running on sand can be a more taxing workout, due to the shifting nature of the surface. Research has suggested it takes almost twice as much energy as running on pavements.



The rugged landscapes of Scotland offer a choice of wilder terrains. A tougher challenge for the more experienced runners, try the mountain trails around Ardgartan Argyll. Hilly and mountain runs are great for building strength and stamina, but make sure you are fully prepared. SportsShoes recommend you take waterproof coats, wear breathable base layers and, of the utmost importance, a good pair of running shoes.

Enjoy a more open trail alongside Loch Lubnaig at Strathyre, with pebbled shores and pine-clad hills. Or delve deeper into the National Parks to discover stunning scenery, rushing burns and cascading waterfalls - the ideal places to stop for a rest and some calming breathing.

Forest Retreat sign on a forest trail

Forest trail with direction sign


The open moors of North Yorkshire are beautiful, but challenging. There are well-defined trails both off-road over uneven ground, or on the roads that weave through the moorland. Near to the luxurious cabins at Keldy are gentler routes with panoramic views, and winding through the forest at Cropton are plenty of trails, giving runners both tranquil and secluded runs or wild and exhilarating runs.



Each of our locations is set within beautiful countryside with various woodland trails, suitable for all levels of experienced trail runners. Try the forest trails at Forest of Dean or run beneath the beech trees at Blackwood Forest. The connection with nature, feeling the wind in your face and enjoying the sounds and scents of the forest – every part of forest life builds a sense of mindfulness that restores your spirit and boosts your health.

Stretching in the forest

Stretching in the forest


It's important to be fully prepared, particularly if you're running a new route. SportsShoes have plenty of tips for beginners, such as checking the weather before you set off, ensuring someone knows where you will be and taking plenty of hydration. You can get advice about the local trails from our Forest Rangers or at the Forest Retreat.

Warming up is equally important. Stretching your muscles helps keep them supple and prevents a torn ligament or tender tendon. Thorpe Forest and Blackwood Forest both offer an alternative and fun way to get loosened up, with a trim trail consisting of an assortment of monkey bars, sit up benches, shoulder press and other outdoor equipment on offer.


And recover...

It's equally important to stretch out and re-hydrate after a run. SportsShoes recommend you take time to relieve sore muscles with a massage, which you can do in style with our in-cabin spa treatments - and of course, many of our family accommodating hot tub cabins come equipped with a family hot tub for a well-earned time out after your exercise.

Book your cabin today and discover the benefits of natural trail running! Do you have any top tips or favourite routes? Share them in the comments below!

*Statistics from www.sportengland.org