Transitioning to running on trails instead of pavement has become more popular among many runners. This terrain gives you a nature experience that running on roads cannot do. What the specific benefits of running on trails are as well as how to run well on them are the things I want to introduce to you today.
Benefits of Trail Running
The benefits of trail running include physical, emotional, mental and spiritual perspective of your life.
- Firstly, trail is often uneven. Your legs must do a more varied range of motions that helps build your strength, improve balance through strengthening even little-used muscle groups such as smaller stabilizing ones in your legs, feet, ankles and core. The softer surface of trails also adds more resistance to your legs because this terrain has less rebound than pavement so hip flexors, the quadriceps, and gluteus muscles are forced to work more than they do when running on pavements.
- Trails will take away a lot of stress put on the ankles, knees, shins, and hips from impact when the foot hits harder surfaces. This helps reduce the risk of ITB syndrome, shin splints and impact-related injuries. Additionally, running on trails might be more beneficial in preventing most forms of tendinitis.
- Trail running is considered an essential component of training because it teaches runners how to adapt their running stride accordingly and deal with constant changes as well as improve their running technique. Specifically, running on uneven terrain of trail requires you to take quicker, shorter strides and land more on the forefoot instead of the heel. These adjustments are helpful when running on other surfaces. Shorter strides, quicker stride rate and mid-foot landing often require less energy and allow you to speed up faster than running with longer strides and landing on heel.
- When you run on trails, there is less stress about your pace and time than when running on roads, which allows you to relax your mind and enjoy your runs more. If you are a runner who is obsessed with performance, the reduced emphasis on running time can be a tonic for you.
- Besides, trails are often in quite places where it’s free from cars; therefore, runners will be safer. Moreover, instead of the noisy sounds from traffic, you can enjoy the interesting sounds of birds and trees rustling in the wind which gives your mind an entirely difference experience.
- Some studies show that a high pollution environment can cause an increase in cardiovascular disease to runners. But with the trails, there are very few motor vehicles so you don’t have to worry about polluted air. You can take deep breaths to enjoy fresh air. Moreover, many trees on the trails also offer a more oxygen-rich environment, provide shelter from the wind in cold climates and give you ideal shade during hot weather. Generally, trail running is a really great way to combine nature and running.
A Beginner's Guide to Trail Running
Good technique can help you pass other runners without spending too much energy. Here are some techniques to run on trails more effectively:
- Take shorter and quicker stride and land on midfoot are noticeable techniques you should remember.
- On more technical trails with rocks and tree roots, keep your elbows a little wider for more balance. You will need to lift your feet a little higher off the ground than when running on roads or hop to the sides to avoid rocks and tree roots.
- When descending, you should lean back into the hillside. This is a safe technique and doesn’t get you down in a hurry. It promotes heel striking action and works like a brake when you descend. Use your arms for added balance. And remember that shorter steps are more effective.
Quick Trail Running Tips
- Choosing the correct type of trails is also important when running on this terrain. The trails mustn’t be rocky, steep, or riddled with roots. You just need to find a non-paved surface, like a wood-chip-covered path, packed dirt road or Rail Trail which can help you reduce impact on your joints and enjoy nature.
- For beginners, I suggest running a flat trail at first instead of running on uneven or more inclined ones. Because uneven and inclined trails always put runners in much more challenges. And you should give your body time to be familiar with running on new surfaces. Until you are used to them, you can increase speed and distance as well as choose uneven trails that can make you stronger overall. For more advanced racers and runners, choosing a difficult trail that is highly technical or hilly can be a great workout for leg power and strength.
- Your training on trails should fit the race you are preparing for like in other trainings. In other words, the proportion of your weekly training to run on trails should base on your goal race.
- The trail is often seriously instable and with varying terrain, inclines, and many curves that can cause falls and injuries if you don’t focus. Therefore, you have to pay much more attention to each step on trails. And your average pace per mile on trails should be slower than on paved road.
- Additionally, trails are in rural area so it is also dangerous if you run alone or at night because if you unfortunately have troubles, it is difficult to be seen and get help.
- It is better if you run with someone or let they know where you are going and bring a trail map and cell phone along with you for safety.
- Invest in trail running shoes is also important. These shoes are lower profile to reduce the chance of ankle rolls because of high heel. The rugged tread provides better traction on wet, muddy trails. They often have room in the toe box but fit snug in the heel.
- Wearing sunscreen is also necessary when running on trails despite shaded routes. Sunglasses are helpful in protecting you from bushes and tree branches. Wearing a hat will help prevent ticks and insect bites.
- You have to remember to bring water with you. Running on trails might take longer than others due to water crossings, mud, snow and more. Three ways to carry fluids are multi-bottle waist belt, handheld, and hydration pack.
- Combine strength and balance exercises with your regimen 2 to 3 times per week is a good way to improve your trail running performance. They include single leg squats, lunges on a pad or stability disk, bridge, pushups and dips, calf raises, dead lifts, and using a wobble board to develop ankle and foot strength and stability.
- Connect with local forest preserves, national parks, running stores, social networking, and Google to find trails near you to look for information about the specific nature of the trail, including hazards, wild animals, spiders, snakes and anything you need to know when running in a new area.
Transition to running on the trails is one of the good things you can do for your running. Besides helping you enjoy your runs more, run faster and build your strength, running on this terrain can be a relaxing and enjoyable addition to your running program.