If you’re getting a little bored and sore from running on hard pavement, you should consider looking for the nearest trail. Trail running is an offshoot of cross country running (without any time pressure) and is typically done on any dirt road, bike trail or footpath.
If you want to give trail running a shot, here are 10 awesome reasons why you should go trail running:
- Become a Badass – You can run up hills and mountains, across streams, step on mud and generally be a little filthy after trail running, but that’s perfectly fine. The idea here is to run with nature, not against her, so it’s OK to get dirty! In fact, if you come home without any dirt on your shoes, you didn’t really go trail running.
- It’s Always an Adventure – There are no predetermined stops, unlike in road running where you just typically run in a straight line. The trail can be a meandering, rock-filled path full of trees, roots, vines, plants and wildlife. You can choose a trail less travelled, or you can run on a trail with lots of other runners if you’re trail running for the first time.
- It’s Easier on your Joints – Unlike road running, trail running is easier on your joints because of the softer surface. The dirt and soil can absorb the energy generated by your foot strike better than pavement, which just gives all of it back in full force. This is jarring to your joints and hard on your body, especially if you heel strike.
- You’ll be Stronger – You’ll be a stronger runner because trail running involves a lot of movement. You’ll run, dodge, duck and do a lot of lateral movement to get over obstacles, leap across rocks and navigate your way out of the trail. All the level changes trains a whole different set of your leg muscles, especially your stabilizer muscles and core, which more or less were never used in road running.
- Avoid Running Injuries – Even elite marathon and ultramarathon runners prefer to train on the trail. Kenyan and Ethiopian world champion distance runners are so good at what they do because they run on the dirt all the time. Even when they go the US to train, they run on a trail. It’s because it’s less taxing on the body and you’ll be able to avoid common injuries.
- Improve your Orienteering Skills – When running on a trail, it’s easy to get lost if you’re not familiar with the area and if other runners don’t frequent it. If you’re running anywhere in Canada, sites like Trakmaps.com offer a wide range of topographical maps to help you navigate and get back on track.
- Good for Mental Health – Many doctors who have depressed patients that don’t respond to medication prescribe running on the trail because it promotes calm and allows one to focus clearly and find peace and even joy. The feeling is different when you’re outside in mother nature’s playground. The sight of the sky and trees have also been known to the lift spirits up.
- Breathe Fresh Air – Running in nature is also better for your lung health. Research suggests that runners who run on busy roads in the city are more prone to lung diseases when compared to runners who run on the trail or on less busy roads in rural areas. The next time you’re out, don’t forget to breathe in the fresh air!
- Improve Awareness – Your focus will improve, because although you can’t “zone out” like what you’d normally do in a regular road run, you have to be constantly aware and focused on where you’re stepping and how your feet should land. You should always have your sights set a few yards ahead of you to avoid any obstacles or change of terrain.
- It’s Beautiful – The trail is breathtaking, with amazing scenery you won’t see anywhere else, especially when you’re used to running on the road. This holds true for runs up in the mountains. You’ll be among the trees, lush greenery and other natural formations. It’s OK to stop and take it all in.
Trail running is an excellent alternative to road running, especially when you need a break. Just make sure that you have the right running skills and are familiar with the trail you’re going to be running in. For added safety, it helps to have a friend who’s done the trail before or look for a trail running club in your area so you can do a group run.
Good luck out there, and have fun!