Try Parkour Techniques to Bolster Your Trail-Running Skills

Molly Hurford
by Molly Hurford
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Try Parkour Techniques to Bolster Your Trail-Running Skills

Trail running requires more than just a strong set of legs: You need a lot of focus, technical skill and full-body fitness to truly excel as trails get more rooted, rocky or obstacle-littered. parkour-style training can help with that. parkour athletes focus on getting from one spot to another in the most efficient way possible — not unlike you trying to make your way across a river in a trail race. So, learn from some of their common practices. This is what parkour classes often focus on, and you can benefit from sprinkling these tips into your trail runs.


During a parkour practice session, pushups are common practice. That’s because a proper pushup engages not just the upper body, but core, glutes and quads as well, making it a great full-body exercise. Sprinkling sets of 5–10 pushups into your training runs, perhaps between intervals or even fartlek-style bursts, helps during a trail run. Not only does a strong core make navigating climbs, descents and technical sections easier, occasionally trails require a bit of scrambling up and over boulders or other obstacles, and having some upper-body strength is key.


One of the earliest practices in parkour classes is precision jumping, and while it sounds simple, the exercise is a surprising showcase of what you can actually do if you need to jump something like a big log or boulder on the trail. You can try this at home, starting with laying two sticks out in the yard about 3–4 feet apart to start. Staying on both feet — no leaping — focus on jumping from the first stick to just beyond the second stick. You’ll notice that after a few tries, your body starts to understand the exact amount of momentum required. Training your body like this helps trail navigation around (or over) obstacles.


After you master jumping between sticks, add some height. In a parkour class, this may look like hopping (again, with both feet together) from the ground onto a park bench. Or, to add an element of shock and danger: In a class, students take turns hopping over each other. One kneels on the ground or on hands and knees and the other hops directly up and over. It sounds nearly impossible for a non-gymnast/shorter runner, but after a few tries, it’s amazing how high and far you can get in a single hop. Doing this not only helps with getting over taller obstacles, but it also improves your confidence in your ability to navigate the obstacles at speed on the trail.


The reason parkour and obstacle races like “Ninja Warrior” attract such a wide variety of participants is because, simply put, they involve a huge element of child-like play. As adults, we often look at running as a linear task: Get from point A to point B as efficiently as possible. But parkour forces you to look at obstacles not as things that are slowing you down on the trail, but as fun ways to ‘play’ in the woods. The next time you’re out for a run, think about taking a childlike view of the obstacles are in your path. A fence to keep out cars is a great chance to practice your climbing and leaping, a creek just gives you a chance to practice precision jumping from rock to rock. Get playful and your trail run gets a lot more fun!

About the Author

Molly Hurford
Molly Hurford

Molly is an outdoor adventurer and professional nomad obsessed with all things running, nutrition, cycling and movement-related. When not outside, she’s writing and podcasting about being outside, training and health. You can follow along with her adventures on Instagram at @mollyjhurford.


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