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How to Get in Shape Before Your First Trail Race

One of the best things about running is the fact that there are so many different opportunities. Whether you love run far, fast, alone, in a group, right out your door, in the basement on your treadmill, or through the woods – there’s something for you.

Trail running is an excellent way to avoid mental burnout, mix things up and explore new places.

However, that’s not to say that it’s easy. Trail running is quite different than road running – so much so that it requires a few different muscle groups than regular running.

Today, Nina, from is sharing a few exercises to complete to help get in shape for your first trail race. Stay strong and injury free with these exercises.

Check out everything you need to know about trail running below!

Running is a great way to get outdoors and explore nature and it can benefit your health by improving your balance, strength and foot turnover.

Since the terrain is softer, this type of running offers a lower risk of injury than running on paved paths. If you would like to participate in your first trail race, spending hours on the treadmill every day simply won’t cut it. Since this race will challenge your whole body you need to make sure that you are not skipping strength-building exercises.

Supplementing running with these workouts will help you become a stronger, faster, and more efficient runner. Of course, you don’t have to work out like one of those gym rats.

How to get in shape before your first trail race: 11 exercises to try

How to Get in Shape Before Your First Trail Race

Instead of lifting huge weights and pumping your muscles, you need to focus on those exercises that will keep you balanced and help you move forward. Therefore, aside from cardio exercises, try to include these workouts into your fitness regime and you will be able to get in shape before your first big race.


If you thought that cardio exercises will help you lose weight faster, you obviously haven’t heard about the benefits of lunges. This exercise targets large muscles of your lower body and boosts your metabolism, so you can easily burn those calories.

To do lunges, you will need to take a wide stance and place one foot in front of the other.  Place your hands on your hips, bend your front leg into a lunge position and then slowly step upright. Afterward, step forward with your back leg and do the next lunge.

How to get in shape before your first trail race: 11 exercises to try

Box Step-Ups

If you are building your home gym and you don’t mind investing in a new piece of equipment, you can buy a great plyometric box online. (In case you need additional information about this piece of equipment, you can find more here). On the other hand, you can also exercise using a sturdy bench or stairs.

To perform the exercise correctly, you will need to step up onto your platform until the leg that is on the box is fully extended. Then start lowering back down on that same leg until your back leg is back on the ground.

Box Jumps

The name of the exercise is pretty much self-explanatory. Just by jumping on the box you can increase your power and improve your speed. However, make sure you are using the right technique.

Before you jump, lower yourself down into a quarter squat and swing your arms back. While driving your arms forward jump up onto the box and stand up. 


Most people know how to do push-ups, but did you know that this exercise is ideal for building upper body strength? They will work the triceps, pectoral muscles, and shoulders, as well as strengthen the lower back and core. While doing push-ups hold in your tummy, but don’t forget to breathe.

How to get in shape before your first trail race: 11 exercises to try

Single Leg Squats

As if squats weren’t difficult on their own, experts have come up with even harder versions – single-leg squats.

While standing on one leg (while the other one is behind you) sit back into a squat. Maintain balance as you lower as far as possible while keeping the knee over your ankle. This exercise engages your glutes and improves your performance during the race.


This is an excellent core workout that will also build your upper-body strength – but if you are still not able to do one pull-up, don’t hesitate to just hang from the bar. Do so while trying to remain as still as possible and you will engage your core.


Although they can make you feel like your whole body is burning, planks have so many benefits. They will help you build your biceps and shoulder muscles, tone your arms, boost your core strength, and develop the muscles in your thighs. 

Related: Free 30 Day Plank Challenge

Barbell Squats

In order to run faster, you need to build strength in your legs, and barbell squats will help you do just that! To do this exercise properly you need to stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and place a loaded barbell on your back just below your neck.

While keeping your core completely engaged push your hips back so you can lower down into a squat while keeping chest up. Next, stand up straight by driving your heels into the ground. Try to do 3 sets of 10 reps and you will boost your leg strength in no time.

Dumbbell Power Clean

For this exercise, you will need a dumbbell. Position your body like you are squatting while your right arm is hanging in front of your body and holding a dumbbell.

The next thing you need to do is to pull your arm up, elbow first, and slowly stand up. Afterward, flip your wrist so your palm is facing your head while dropping back into a squat.

Suitcase Deadlift

This exercise is really simple to do, but that doesn’t mean it’s not effective. Actually, it activates your glutes, core, hamstrings, quadriceps, and trapezius – basically all those muscles you use while running.

Put a pair of kettlebells in front of you and stand with feet hip-width apart.  Slowly squat down and grip the kettlebells, and while maintaining a neutral spine, stand up.  Then lower back down until the weights reach the floor and start from the beginning.

Knee Tuck Jump

When it comes to improving your speed, this is the holy grail of exercises. Maybe it sounds silly but after a few rounds, you will see that it’s not as simple as it seems.

To do it correctly, stand up, lower your hips, swing your arms back and jump up while driving your knees up as high as possible. Make sure you don’t hunch over!

When your feet reach the ground, jump back up again. If you are a beginner, 3 sets of 10 reps will do the trick, but if you are an advanced level, try 3 sets of 30 reps.

Incorporating these workouts into your weekly training will improve your performance and help you complete your first trail race with flying colors.

Now put your shoes on and see what adventures lie ahead!

About the Author

Nina is a candy lovin’ coffee addict with a passion for working out. She is currently working as an editor in chief of and traveling through Europe.

Trail running for beginners: motivation to get started and exercises to stay strong before your first trail race.
Trail running for beginners: motivation to get started and exercises to stay strong before your first trail race.