Nope, this isn’t about a DIY batch of healthy snacks (although that might be my next food-related post), it’s about adding a little trail walking/running to your next workout! Are you bored with your regular walking or running route?Are you tired of waiting at stoplights and sick of noise pollution from vehicles? Are you looking for a respite from the beating summer sun? Enough with my questions; if you are ready for a mini-adventure, hit up some trails!
I recently went to a trail behind the Ashworth pool with my friend Dylan and his dog, Mya. Dylan is a friend from college and he is a very talented photographer and videographer. You should check out his website! Getting back on track, or rather trail, we were just playing around with some different photography tricks when it dawned on me that I should explore the trails a little bit more when the weather is nice. Anytime you take your workout literally off the beaten path you should keep a few things in mind. Here, in no particular order, are a few things to consider before hitting up the trails.
Map It: While there is something fun and mysterious about exploring new territory without a plan, it’s best to at least consult a map or trail guide before heading out. This way you have a general idea of where trails start and end and if there are any points along the way where you can hop off if need be. The City of Des Moines Parks and Rec website offers all sorts of information about the various trails in the metro. Did you know the Des Moines metro has over 550 miles of trails and there are 42 trails just in DSM proper? Most of the trails I’ve explored have been around Waterworks and the Greenbelt, both great for walking, jogging, biking, or rollerblading. If you take your trail adventure a step, or several steps further and into the woods, try to orient yourself so you know which direction you’re facing and stay on parts of the trail that have been created for recreation.
Timing: Another reason it is good to consult a map prior to going out is so that you know approximately how long it might take you to get where you plan to go. When I was a runner and training for Dam 2 Dam, I thought it would be fun to run through Waterworks. I hadn’t consulted anyone prior to determine mileage and I was shocked when I figured I still had two miles to go before I was even close to home. Yikes! It’s also good to avoid trails in the dark and if possible, let someone know your anticipated route and what time you think you’ll be home.
Bug Repellant: I usually get swarmed by mosquitoes and chiggers whenever I’m in the great outdoors. Because of this I usually have to use some kind of repellant whether I’m exercising or just eating dinner on the patio. Exercisers are actually more attractive to mosquitoes because when you exercise, you produce more C02 and your temperature increases, two factors mosquitoes are attracted to. So before you go, put on your sunscreen and whatever it is that you use to ward away the bugs. Upon returning, do a tick-check to make sure any creepy crawlies aren’t trying to make your body its home.
Surroundings: If you can, inquire with people you know who use the trails and see what is best for the activity you want to do. Some trails might be perfect for bikes but not rollerblades. Some might be very walker-friendly but not great for bikes. I’ve been rollerblading a lot lately and find that in general, dogs don’t like rollerbladers. Therefore any kind of trail that might have a lot of dogs I’d like to avoid. You should also check for trail closures due to flooding and be especially careful for washed out trails after heavy rains. Also, if you plan to bring your dog, make sure you know whether or not you need to keep it leashed.
So you can stick with the paved trails or try something even more adventurous and head into the woods. If you’ve been running the same route all summer it’s time for a change! Just make sure safety is your number one priority!
Photos by Dylan Huey of Huey Photography.