3 Reasons to Give Trail Running a Try
Why would you try trail running when you are training for a road run? I’m so glad you asked! While it may seem like trail running can’t offer you any benefits when you are training for your next road race, trail running is an essential part of my running program.
Trail Running Builds Stamina / Endurance
Trail running can be tough. The hills work your cardiovascular system and the changes in terrain force new muscle groups to wake up and engage. I have found in my training that after a slower paced trail run my road pace actually improves! Pick an intermediate level trail complete with a few hills and more technical footing to get the most out of improving your overall running fitness. The more challenging the terrain, the more you can benefit from it, whether your goal is improving your 5k road pace, or your overall distance abilities.
Varied Surface = Fewer Injuries
The varied surface of trail running means you get less repetitive motion. Most runners experience an overuse injury at least once in their running career due to the repetitive nature of the sport (and sometimes a lack of dedication to strength training – more on that here). When we constantly are running on roads and focusing on a straight-forward road pace, the smaller leg muscles have the opportunity to be neglected, while the bigger muscles begin to compensate for the muscles that have “gone to sleep”, leading to overuse injuries. The softer surface provides shock absorption for your knees while the terrain forces new muscle groups to activate from the change of motion – improving your overall running fitness.
Trail Running: A Mini-Adventure
While prior-planning is definitely recommended prior to tackling a trial run to ensure you know where you are going (and how to get back), there is a heightened sense of adventure going out into the “unknown”. The lack of traffic and noise allow me to take a breath and de-stress. When I run trails, I rarely listen to music to get the most out of the opportunity.
I have a couple of “tried and true” trails that I love to run, and even though I have run these trails hundreds (if not thousands) of times, I am still frequently awe-struck by the beauty around me. Sometimes, when the time allows for it, I will plan extra time around my scheduled run to simply stop and enjoy where I am. You can even use your trail run as an active recovery day by focusing on slowing your pace and relaxing your body.
For me, running trails provides an opportunity for increased focus on my body, and an opportunity to decompress in a bit of silence after a long week of tough workouts. Trail running is essential to my training puzzle. My favorite training program includes 3 days of road running, including a Friday long run, and then a Saturday trail run plus some good strength training and foam rolling sprinkled throughout the week. This schedule provides for distance training, speed training and recovery, while providing a nice change-of-pace with the added trail run. (pun intended) 🙂
Not sure where to start? Find a trail over on Trail Run Project.
Hi, I'm DeAndrea! I'm a runner, outdoor enthusiast, and foodie. I'm here to share trail running, nutrition, and life inspiration for your busy life. I am working towards my RRCA running coach.
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