Physical Benefits of Trail Running
Written By: SportsShoes
Trail running is fast rising in popularity, as runners shun the city and head to the trails to log their miles. Trail running means great scenery and a mental boost, but also has excellent physical benefits which can help boost fitness and performance. Here’s how:
Trail Running Gives Your Body a Break
Road runners can often find themselves plagued with over-use injuries caused by repetitive impact from hard concrete surfaces. The softer surface of the trails has more “give” which means shock to the knees, ankles, shins and hips is better dissipated. It follows that the risk of any injury which is aggravated by impact, such as shin splints or knee pain, is lessened by taking your running off the pavement and onto the trails.
Enhanced Running Technique
Twisting and turning trails, varying surfaces, and avoiding fallen tree branches, rocks and stones, forces trail runners onto their toes, with shorter strides and a faster turnover. This has a wider benefit in using less energy and allowing for fast acceleration, which results in an altogether more efficient, powerful running technique.
Improved Balance and Proprioception
Trail runners need to adapt quickly to variable terrain, and this means improved balance, stability and ground feel. Trail running helps enhance core stability, strengthens feet and ankles and improves agility.
Trail Running Conditions More Muscle Groups
Trail running forces greater muscle engagement and proprioception. As well as conditioning the same muscles used for road running, trail running also recruits the smaller, stabilising muscles needed for lateral movement, balance and proprioception. This activates and conditions the inner and outer thighs (abductors and hip flexors) as well as strengthening the feet and ankles. The abdominal muscles and lower back are also strengthened as the feet are picked up higher, and the body activates stabilising muscles for better balance.
Strength Training in Disguise
A hilly trail run is as good as (if not better) than hill repeats for strength training, and without the monotony. Varying gradients, hill length and surfaces also challenge and engage different muscles more often, activating more ancillary muscle groups. Softer terrain also means less rebound. This in turn means added resistance, resulting in stronger quadriceps, hip flexors and gluteus muscles, more power and better performance.
Less traffic and no fumes means that getting out onto the trails is good for our lungs and cardiovascular systems. Less exposure to carbon monoxide combined with the oxygen-rich environment provided by trees and other vegetation means better air quality, and a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease from training in areas of high pollution.