These are my top five reasons why I think it’s trail running over pounding the pavement EVERY time.
Reason 1: Terrain
From sand and gravel to mud and ice, off-road surfaces will have you choosing your path with WAY more consideration than simply running on road.
You’ll be adjusting your footfall so as not to slip on muddy or icy surfaces and get the best grip, plus you’ll be choosing a running line that will actively avoid ground or obstructions that might cause you to stumble or turn an ankle.
But just WHY is this important, surely it’s more of a pain to run off road?
I know I know the act of constantly thinking about where your feet hit the ground can be physically and mentally tiring, but stick with it and it’ll do wonders for your run form. Let me explain…
By adding trails to your regular weekly runs you’ll start to adapt your form to shorten and increase the frequency of your running stride and, all being well, you’ll begin to strike the ground with your fore/mid foot and not your heel and use the natural shock absorption of a flex knee. This faster stride should improve efficiency and combined with hitting the ground with the front/mid part of your foot will also help keep your knees in better condition.
Reason 2: The Views
Personally it’s not all about say the majestic views from the top of a hill that keep me running trails - although these do help - but it’s also being immersed in the natural environment.
If you’re lucky enough, or run enough distance, you can experience different environments all in the same run, everything from weaving through ancient oaks as the sun peers through the foliage to rolling grassy sheep covered hills.
My personal favourite when running is to break off main paths and seek out other more challenging routes that will take me further into the wilds. Animal paths or mountain bike routes are perfect for this - as long as you remember to watch and listen out!
Reason 3: The Hills
There’s something TOTALLY gratifying about getting to the top of a climb. Even if you’ve had to walk some of it that perfect mix of maintaining a challenging running pace with the buzz of reaching your goal to get to the top plus an incredible view, lovely.
Hills are actually perfect for interval training. Set your watch, run to the top or up for a desired amount of time (30 secs, 1 min, 3 mins, 15 mins whatever you feel like), then walk or jog back down whilst you recover your heart rate.
Hitting an incline will automatically make a run that much more challenging and help season your body and mind. Hell to the YEAH.
Reason 4: Connecting With Others
It’s the people that you meet AND the animals that you meet.
Okay, so maybe that last bit sounds strange, but hear me out; it’s having a connection with others and natural wildlife.
For example, out on a run I’ll always say hello to fellow runners and most of the time anyone else I meet - I’ll wave or doff my imaginary hat - and hopefully they’ll say hello back (not all the time though, sad face). When you’re running on the road, especially in a more populated areas, you’ll tend not to get a hello back from everyone you pass. However on the trail people always greet others when passing, it doesn’t matter whether they’re bikers, hikers or runners. See, the world isn’t that bad…
Reason 5: No TRAFFIC
Running along roads can be HORRIFIC especially busy roads at night when car headlights shine deep into your retinas. Couple your headlamp dazed eyes with poor street lighting and you’ll enter a world of hesitant stumbles or worse falls and ankle turning.
Personally I’ve run a LOT of training routes up the sides of main roads. I still find running alongside main routes and fast motorways - along the proper footpaths I might add - with the cars and trucks screaming noisily by INCREDIBLY stressful and downright scary.
Not just that, but running through an urban zone and having to cross road after road after road can be SOOO time consuming. When I lived in the city I would purposefully choose training routes that would head to the nearest large park and then just run a loop round and round the park purely because I just got so fed-up with having to wait by each junction or crossing point, often for an ETERNITY whilst the traffic cleared or lights turned.
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