Although trail running has its more obvious benefits such as a change in scenery, peacefulness and quiet, and also some shade to shield you from the brutal Southern heat, there are numerous benefits to your body and training that can come from veering off the road from time to time.
Avoid Impact Injuries
The softer surface of the trails reduces impact on the body, decreasing the chance of impact injuries that are common to running on harder surfaces such as the road or concrete. The softer, more forgiving surface of trails offers more shock absorption and is easier on the body and joints.
Slows You Down
The technical nature of trails slows your pace, making a trail run great for active recovery and for easy run days. The rugged terrain forces runners to adopt a tempo that facilitates recovery. Some runners tend to push it too hard on rest or recovery days, but the trails will force runners to take it a little easier.
Activate Different Muscles
Trail running activates muscles and tissues that do not get work during road running. Working stabilizing muscles and your core during trail running relieves the stress on the larger muscle groups that get constant work on the road. Overuse of muscles can lead to injury, so changing up your routine and surfaces on which you run can help reduce the risk of injury.
Encourage Greater Efficiency
Trails force runners to take shorter strides and run more on their forefoot, thus having a more efficient gait. Proprioception is also heightened with increased foot-eye coordination–maneuvering the uneven surface increases agility, balance and coordination.
Remember to Run Smart
As with anywhere you run, run smart on the trails. Become familiar with the trails before heading out, and let someone know where you’re planning to run if going alone. Keep a close eye on the trail in front of you and watch for stumps, sticks or any other obstacles that could be in your way. Also, consider using bug spray before hitting the trails and check for ticks and other pests after your run.
To read more, see the August issue of Memphis Health and Fitness Magazine!