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The Best Running Trails and Parks in Westchester

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Photos courtesy of AdobeStock

Be it a quick jog or marathon, running is a superior way to get some fresh air while improving your health. Westchester is a veritable jogger’s paradise, boasting a wealth of scenic trails, pacific parks, and top shops to get the gear you want for the optimal bipedal experience.

– Westchester’s Top Running Spots –

Andy Kimerling of Westchester Road Runner reveals his favorite county spots to sneak in a superb run.

Rockefeller State Park Preserve. Photo by Linda Harms

Rockefeller State Park Preserve

“My favorite place in the world to run is Rockefeller State Park Preserve. The Preserve has maintained those trails in terrific condition, and you can walk or run for hours on end and never hit the same trail twice, since it’s several thousand acres. The park is also gorgeous, and if I told you that you were just 20 miles north of New York City, you would never believe it.”

Tibbetts Brook Park

“If you live in Yonkers, you can get a great run in at Tibbetts Brook Park. From there, you can get on the Croton Trailway, which runs from the New York City line all the way to the Putnam line and beyond. A tremendous amount of people do use that for biking because it is paved, but it’s also a very nice place to just go out and run.”

Leatherstocking Trail

“Down in Mamaroneck, there’s the Leatherstocking Trail, which is a beautiful, lesser-known place to run that I love.”

– Top Tips –

We caught up with Andy Kimerling, jogging know-it-all and owner of the long-standing Westchester Road Runner in White Plains, to provide a few inside tips on how to up your cardio game.

How do you begin a running regimen without causing injury?
Whether you’re going out to walk or run, I always tell people to build up gradually. The first day, go out for just half an hour and see how your body feels. Do that three or four times over the week, and that should be enough for someone who hasn’t been exercising in a while.

I often teach people to both walk and run to start. For instance, I have them go out and walk for two minutes then run for two minutes, then walk for two minutes, and so on. That gives them a chance, during the walking phase, to recover from the running phase. If someone can keep that up for 20 or 25 minutes, they can then gradually build on that, depending on how their body has been reacting.

Do you recommend stretching?
Stretching is a very personal thing. People whose joints and muscles are very flexible to start with may only need to take the first mile very slowly, and that will warm up the muscles. Then there are people whose muscles or tendons tend be more rigid. If they could do some gentle, easy stretching for four or five minutes, to just stretch out the muscles [prior to a run], that would be great.

What exercises can improve a person’s running?
A lot of guys look at yoga as something only women do, but yoga is the best exercise you can do if you are running, as well. Yoga will stretch out muscles that running never will, and it will help keep you in shape. It’s also a great addition to running because running is so repetitive that you tend to not only exercise the same muscles, these muscles can become too strong next to other muscles. So, if more guys would have a more open mind to yoga, it would keep a lot more people healthy.

Are there any mistakes you often see in a runner’s form?
When I’m coaching people, I sometimes find that their arms are very tight [while running] and their fists are clenched. I tell them an old coaching trick: If you try to imagine that you are holding a potato chip in each hand, and you are trying not to break those chips, you become much more relaxed. That relaxation in your hands travels through your arms and into your shoulders, and your whole body becomes more fluid as a result.

How often do you recommend people run?
For someone who just wants to stay in shape, If they get in 30 minutes, five days a week — so basically two and a half hours of running per week — that should be more than enough to keep them in shape.

How does one find the ideal footwear?
When you buy a running shoe, know that they make shoes for specific foot types. For instance, I am fairly flatfooted, so I need more arch support in my shoe, and that is what I will look for when purchasing one. People with a very high arch should look for a shoe with more cushion.

Whichever retail expert is helping you, they should be able to assess your foot type just by watching you walk or standing in your socks. They should be able to pick out three or four shoes, which you should then compare. All the major companies make good shoes, so just try them on; your foot will know what’s most comfortable.

What is the best way to ensure longevity in your running?
No matter your age, the most important thing is to listen to your body. If something is hurting you, don’t try to run through it. Also, please don’t try to self-medicate. What I mean is, we have people who come [into the store] and start looking at calf sleeves, knee braces, and ankle braces when they have not yet been to a podiatrist or orthopedist for their opinion. These people love running so much that they do not want to give it up for one second, and I understand that. But if you take an extra two or three days off, that rest does wonders for the body — especially for runners.

– Clothing Run –

We round up a host of local shops perfect for picking up top-tier running gear.

Photo courtesy of Lululemon

Lululemon Atheltica

With duds for virtually any workout regimen, this cultish shop located in The Westchester boasts some of the sleekest leggings, tanks, and hoodies money can buy.
www.lululemon.com

Jackrabbit

Another Rye gem, this solid shop can outfit you for almost any run with their selection of sneakers from companies like New Balance, Adidas, and Hoka, along with a selection of shorts and tops built for speed.
www.jackrabbit.com

Westchester Road Runner

A favorite among area athletes, this enduring White Plains shop not only boasts a wide selection of shoes but also offers spikes, running apparel, and even swimming gear for those contemplating a triathlon or two.
914.682.0637