Trail running can be summarized in three words: Expect the unexpected. In general, running, provides great physical and mental health benefits. There are some major differences that trail running offers when compared with road or treadmill efforts. Getting out in nature, breathing fresh air, and moving your body in unpredictable ways are just a few benefits of hitting the trails.
Let’s quickly define what trail running means. Trail running is running on unpaved surfaces like gravel or dirt, possibly through the woods or out in the open. The unpredictability of the maintenance of the running surface forces the runner to focus on their foot placement and body position constantly. Road and treadmill running is very predictable, allowing the runner to zone out, possibly making it easier but not necessarily better.
There are several benefits to trail running, but here are the top 4 reasons to start trail running today.
- Your balance and reaction time will improve. The unpredictability of the trail will force you to react quickly to ever changing surface conditions. The quicker you can react, the better your balance will become in your life away from the trail, equating to lower risk of falls that result in serious injury.
- Give your brain a break. Getting outside in nature tends to break the cycle of negative thoughts. Add a trail run into the mix, and your mind won’t have the time or processing capacity to think about much else than where your next step is going to be on the trail. Trail running allows you to live in the moment rather than ruminating on other stresses you might have in your life.
- Improves other types of running. Trail running usually results in decreased stress on your legs compared to pounding the pavement during a road run. Slower speeds and softer surfaces are the big reasons for this. Another training outcome to consider are hill climbs, which help strengthen legs and feet muscles, which positively impacts all other forms of training and workouts.
- Improved core stability. The core (trunk of the body) transfers force and movement from the legs to the arms. A constantly changing center of gravity means the core works extra hard to keep the upper body in an optimal position to prevent falling.
If you’re interested in trail running, try it! This type of running doesn’t require any fancy equipment, just your body, some shoes with tread, and a trail. If you enjoy it, invest in a pair of trail running shoes, which have a more tread to prevent slipping and thicker sole and more support around the ankles to ensure you don’t roll an ankle or injure yourself on a sharp rock.
Getting outside and reconnecting with nature can be as important as a good night’s sleep. Moving your body in ways that it’s not used to is also a great way to challenge yourself and your fitness. If you’re not sure where to start on your running or trail running journey, connect with one of VASA’s certified Personal Trainers for more direction.