7 Reasons To Try Trail Running

The huge growth in popularity of trail running has made many serious road runners wonder what’s with this new trend and how can you be able to set a new Personal Record in a race that offers uneven footing, hills and extremely narrow trails, leaving no place for passing?

Trail running may be too casual for serious runners, as they ought to be doing their workouts on perfectly measured (road) courses or on the track where you’re able to easily track your pace, efforts, time and analyze the details, right?

However, trail running definitely offers a lot of benefits for both experienced and new runners and will help you make the most of your running and even enhance race times when it comes to road running.

#1 Fewer injuries

Definitely the worst thing that can happen to a dedicated runner: injuries. There is nothing more terrible for a runner than having an injury and not being able to enjoy their favorite sport.

Most trail runs offer softer surfaces than the concrete or asphalt you will find in cities. That means less injuries because of a lower impact force when hitting the ground, and you will strenghten the muscles which assist stabilize the lower legs. Those muscles provide much support and absorb the impact force—regardless of what surface you are running on— that will help you stay away from injuries.

Trail running reduces the chances of injury.

#2 Enhanced Technique

Studies demonstrate how running on highly uneven surfaces makes you take quicker, shorter strides and force you land way more on the forefoot. Such details will help you a lot next time you go for a rung – when you choose the surface. A quicker stride rate, shorter steps, and mid-foot running requires way less energy and allows for quicker acceleration than heel landing with clearly longer strides.

Running on trails will strenghten your muscles, stabilize your tendons and make you adapt to a much harder style of running. You will inevitably force your body to adapt – you’ll get an enhanced technique. 

#3 Mental Break

Pretty much as essential as those physical advantages everyone’s talking about, trail running offers a mental relaxation too – a break from the busy life we all have. Going for a run on the trails surely beats hitting the pavement in the city jungle, and once you are running in the woods, there is much less stress about your pace and time. You’ll get to enjoy the most of your run, and this is a major part in maintaining consistency in your running schedule after some time.

If you start trail running and you are obsessed with race times and performance, then you should know that trail courses offer you the chance to run slower because of the variability in distances and difficulty. This can definitely help you focus and relax – you’ll get to improve other aspects of running, such as learning to run by feel, managing your effort, tactics, regardless of what the GPS might be showing you.  

Trail running is a huge mental break because is fun. As clichéd as this may sound, we constantly perform and require acts that are fun in order to stay grounded in our approaches to life. Hop from rock to rock, bound down a steep single track, get a sprained ankle – you’ll see that in the end all of these offer an immense sense of fun.

Trail running seems to be appealing to this sports guy.

#4 Long, uninterrupted runs

When it comes to endurance running, nothing beats a good stretch of trail. There are no intersections, no traffic lights and the super long sections of wild trail create an incredible aerobic session. You are free of the distractions of road running, and you can easily start paying more attention to your breathing, running dynamics and efficiency.

Trail running is best choice for your weekly long runs.

#5 Natural fartlek

The impressive, wild nature and hilly trails will offer a well-deserved mental break from structured road intervals, allowing you to improve focus and agility while building endurance and mental strength in a different way. The natural fartlek is something you don’t see everyday, and let’s face it, there’s no better place to run than in the heart of the nature.

Simply knowing that each step is going to give you something virgin is exhilarating. Couple this with a camping road trip to a mountain range you have never run in before, with a few fellow runners, and you’ll quickly understand that life as you know it is all but a farce.

Run on verdant, untouched rivers, jump over rocks and avoid snakes. Be adventurous. Try trail running.

Natural fartlek surprises a trail runner.

#6 Strengthening the stabilizing muscles

Trail running works a variety of muscles in the legs and back, offering you a more well-rounded workout than road running. In other words, it builds crazy amounts of muscle that running on smooth pavement just can’t do. Hit the roads after a couple of trail runs and you’ll suddenly notice the new strength speed. This increased strength comes from the more lateral motion involved in trail running – the body has to use the stabilizer tendons and muscles of the lower legs, core, and ankles for balance. Add trail running to your overall training schedule and you’ll get well-rounded, functional strength.

#7 Run in the Dark

One of the most exhilarating races in my life was a trail run that started at 4:30 am in the heart of the mountains. It was complete darkness outside and I had to use the headlamp for about two hours before the dawn.

It was a memorable experience and I will never forget the unique opportunity to run in a very different way. Finish a trail race that starts early in the morning. You’ll see how senses come alive and even very familiar trails can look really different. Wildlife is way different at night and the cast of characters include anything from bugs, deers, foxes, and night birds. Don’t forget your headlamp!

Runner on a trail with a headlamp.

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