Never mind running around in parks or sidewalks – trail running is where it’s at! Swap out the concrete and go-off road into woods, hills and fields for exercise that not only gets your heart beating, but also gets you out of the concrete jungle and into lovely fresh air. Here’s why you need to give it a try!
Injuries are the bane of every committed runner. There's nothing worse than going a little too hard on your shins or knees and taking yourself out of the race until you recover. Running on natural ground instead of asphalt or concrete gives you a much softer impact, and since such surfaces tend to be a little uneven, you’ll build more stabilising muscles in your lower leg and gain better balance.
Studies show that running on uneven terrain causes you to take shorter, quicker strides and land more on the forefoot than the heel. These adjustments are helpful when you're running on any surface. Shorter strides, a faster stride rate and mid-foot landing requires less energy and allows for faster acceleration than heel-toe running with longer strides.
Just as important as the physical benefits, trail running is mentally relaxing as well. Running in the woods certainly beats chugging around a busy sidewalk and when you're running the trails, there's less stress about your time and pace. It allows you to enjoy your run, which is a major component in maintaining consistency in your training over time.
Trails are usually off-limits to anything with a motor, so you don`t have to worry about taking a deep breath of carbon monoxide every time a car goes by. Some studies have actually shown an increase in cardiovascular disease among those who exercise in a high pollution environment. Conversely, the abundance of trees out on a trail provides a more oxygen-rich environment and gives a better sense of space - all of which makes for a faster, more enjoyable run at any time of year.
For those of you most concerned with improving your times, rest assured, trail running can make you faster. Most trail running involves hills and turns which are a far more efficient exercise method as you are using a greater range of muscles for balance.
Getting off the roads and on to the trails is one of the best things you can do for your running. Whether you’re aiming to enjoy your running more, build your strength or run faster times, trail running can be an enjoyable and relaxing addition to your running program.
Here are a few steps to getting into trail running;
- Find a nearby green space, preferably a little off-road
- Bring lots of water as there aren’t likely to be shops around
- If going alone, make sure people know where you are
- Wear proper outdoor cross-country trainers for better traction on muddy and rugged terrain
- Plan your route carefully or you may end up going further than you intended
- Use your arms for balance and hopping over obstacles such as roots
So now you know the benefits what’s stopping you? Grab your gear, get outside and explore!