How To Train For Trail Running Without Trails

Trail running is a thrilling and invigorating way to connect with nature and challenge yourself physically. The feeling of running through forests, navigating steep terrain, and conquering adventurous trails is truly unbeatable. However, not all of us have access to trails for various reasons – perhaps we live in a city far away from nature, or maybe there are no trails nearby that cater to our desire for ruggedness.

But fear not! Just because you can’t run on actual trails doesn’t mean you can’t train for trail running. In fact, there are several ways you can prepare yourself for the demands of trail running even if you don’t have trails readily available. As an enthusiastic trail runner who has faced similar challenges, let me share some tips and personal insights with you.

1. Find Natural Terrain Alternatives

While it may not be possible to find trails nearby, you can still look for natural terrain alternatives that mimic the challenges you would encounter on a trail. Seek out parks with hilly landscapes, forests, or even sand dunes. These natural terrains provide similar physical demands and will help you build the necessary strength and endurance for trail running.

2. Stair Climbing for Uphill Training

One of the key aspects of trail running is navigating steep uphill sections. If you don’t have access to hills, don’t worry! Find a tall building or a stadium with stairs and use them for uphill training. Running up and down stairs will engage the same muscles and prepare you for the uphill grind during trail runs. Start with shorter sets and gradually increase the duration and intensity of your stair workouts.

3. Improving Balance and Agility

Trail running often requires quick reflexes and excellent balance due to uneven terrain and obstacles. To develop these skills, incorporate exercises that focus on improving balance and agility into your training routine. Yoga, pilates, and stability exercises can enhance your body control and help prevent injuries during trail runs.

4. Strength Training

Strength training is crucial for trail runners as it helps build the necessary muscles to tackle challenging terrains. Focus on exercises that target your legs, core, and upper body. Squats, lunges, deadlifts, planks, and push-ups are great options to include in your strength training routine. Remember to start with lighter weights and gradually increase the load as your strength improves.

5. Mental Preparation

Trail running is not just a physical challenge; it also requires mental resilience. Without the trails around you, it’s essential to work on your mental preparation. Visualization exercises, meditation, and positive affirmations can be powerful tools to develop mental toughness. Imagine yourself running through the trails, feeling the exhilaration and conquering any obstacles that come your way.


While running on actual trails may be the ultimate goal for trail runners, it’s not always feasible. However, with a bit of creativity and dedication, you can still train for trail running without trails. Find natural terrain alternatives, incorporate stair climbing, focus on improving balance and agility, include strength training, and work on your mental preparation. Remember, trail running is not just about the physical aspect but also about connecting with nature and pushing your limits. So lace up those running shoes, embrace the challenges, and let the spirit of trail running guide you, even if you don’t have trails right at your doorstep.