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Singapore Trail Running: Tips for Beginners

Updated: Apr 15


Singapore trail running tips

Singapore is known for its urban landscapes but across the island lie green jungles, coastal forests and the world of trail running. If you are already running for your fitness or your health, trail running offers a unique opportunity to escape the concrete jungle and immerse yourself in nature.

 

Trail running is not only a great way to connect with nature but also a fantastic way to boost your physical and mental wellbeing. Here are some health benefits that come with hitting the trails:


  • Improved Resilience. Trail running challenges your cardiovascular system as you navigate uneven terrain and varying elevations. Over time, this can lead to improved circulation and better overall cardiovascular health. Running on trails also requires mental focus, to navigate rougher terrain and maintain awareness of one’s surroundings.

  • Flow State. Some runners find that trail running is more absorbing than the usual route. The mental focus required, the natural environment, provides the brain an opportunity to switch from its usual state to another level.

  • Strengthened Legs. Running on trails engages a wider range of muscles compared to road running. Your core, stabilizer muscles and lower body muscles get a thorough workout , as do your tendons and ligaments, as you navigate the twists and turns of the trails.

  • Enhanced Balance and Coordination. Trail running requires you to adapt to constantly changing terrain, which can help improve your balance and coordination.

  • Reduced Stress. The natural surroundings of Singapore's trails offer a respite from the daily grind. Spending time in nature can reduce stress levels and improve your mental wellbeing. Enjoy the green!

 

Trail Tips


Before you hit the trails, it's essential to have the right gear to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience. You don’t have to buy the most expensive gear but always try to invest in quality once you have discovered what your needs are. I make some suggestions on various products and brands, based on my personal experience and what works for me.


  • Most important are Trail Running Shoes. Invest in a pair of trail-specific running shoes with good grip and stability.

  • Do some research before you start. Please note that many of the jungle or forest paths in Singapore have been 'improved' by the park authorities, so while you can be in a wild - forested - environment, the running surface is artificial.

  • A hydration pack is useful to carry sufficient water and other items.

  • Comfortable Clothing. Opt for moisture-wicking - synthetic - clothing, not cotton, to keep you comfortable. I like to wear longer socks that cover my ankles for protection against stones, thorny things, bitey things.

  • Trail maps are at most entry points to the parks and trails. Take a photo before your run. Trails are well signposted, a GPS watch or smartphone with a reliable trail-running app can help you stay on course as well as to log your run.

  • I pack my wallet and cards in a zip lock bag, for protection from the rain and my own sweat.

  • Sun and Rain Protection. Singapore's climate means you'll be exposed to the sun, unless you are in the forest and, at time, torrential rain. Carry a hat, both for the sun and if it is raining to keep the water out of your eyes. Sunglasses if you like them, although I find that they always steam up and make my face too hot. Consider sunscreen although I avoid running between 10.30am and before 4.30pm. As the trails I run on are generally shaded (and I carry a hat) I don’t use sunscreen.

  • Nighttime. Don't run in the jungle at night, the parks have official hours and the jungle needs a rest form us too. If you start running after 6.0pm be aware that nightfall comes quick in the jungle, usually by 7.15pm or so it's getting quite dark.

 

For recommendations on specific gear and brands that we enjoy using, read our article here:


Trail running gear equipment
 

Start Slow. Begin with easy trails and gradually progress to more challenging routes as your fitness level improves. MacRitchie Reservoir park has a number of different routes on undulating ground with mainly natural pathways. Bukit Timah Hill is steep and predominantly asphalt and concrete pathways, hard going underfoot but the forest is lovely. Gentle Coney Island, in the north of Singapore, has mainly smooth and soft trails. For a full list of Singapore's nature reserves, see here.



Keep your eyes looking ahead, not at your feet. Develop trust and confidence that your body and mind will guide you forwards safely. This is a trainable skill and soon you will be aware of and enjoy more of the surroundings.


Trail Etiquette. Be respectful of other trail users, avoid disturbing wildlife and don’t litter.


Safety First. Inform someone about your running route and expected return time, especially if you are running alone.


Listen to Your Body. Pay attention to how your body feels on the trails. If you experience pain or discomfort, it's essential to address it promptly. If you need to walk, just walk for a while. Respect your body and think of long-term injury free consistency rather than short term pain for no gain.


Join a Group. Consider joining a trail running group or community to learn from experienced runners and to enjoy the camaraderie. There are a few to be found online, Facebook is a good place to start.

How are you getting home? Don't get in a taxi drenched with sweat! Can you take a change of clothes or a towel with you?
 

Singapore's lush nature reserves offer a perfect environment for trail runners. The MacRitchie Reservoir, with its gentle paths, is a great place to start. Trail running is a wonderful addition to any running or training programme, to provide a different training stimulus, to keep running fresh and fun. Gradually build your trail running skills, you'll not only enjoy the physical and mental health benefits but also discover a newfound appreciation for the Lion City.


Stay Healthy,


Alastair

 

If you run regularly in Singapore it is worth knowing your sweat rate so that you can hydrate properly.

 

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Related Studies


Drum SN, Rappelt L, Held S, Donath L. Effects of Trail Running versus Road Running-Effects on Neuromuscular and Endurance Performance-A Two Arm Randomized Controlled Study. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2023 Mar 3;20(5):4501. doi: 10.3390/ijerph20054501. PMID: 36901510; PMCID: PMC10002259.


White MP, Alcock I, Grellier J, Wheeler BW, Hartig T, Warber SL, Bone A, Depledge MH, Fleming LE. Spending at least 120 minutes a week in nature is associated with good health and wellbeing. Sci Rep. 2019 Jun 13;9(1):7730. doi: 10.1038/s41598-019-44097-3. PMID: 31197192; PMCID: PMC6565732.

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