Trail running is like running, except it’s always outdoors and often through woods and other natural environments. Usually this involves jogging as you normally would, while also enjoying some of the sites, jumping over the occasionally felled tree and avoiding small ditches and holes in the ground. This will give you all the benefits involved with running but at the same time you’ll also get a number of other advantages specific to running in these kinds of environments.
The Benefits of Running
Just to recap on the benefits of running, this is a great form of cardiovascular exercise that will help you to burn fat, to increase the strength of your heart and to improve your overall energy levels by increasing your VO2 max (the efficiency of your breathing) among other things. In general this will improve your fitness, such that you no longer end up gasping after climbing a flight of stairs and that you can then run further.
Health Benefits Unique to Trail Running
On top of these usual benefits though, trail running also has a number of specific advantages that make it even more of a great way to get fit and to possibly lose weight…
For starters, trail running will involve running on different kinds of surfaces as compared with running in an urban setting. These surfaces will generally be softer meaning that more of the impact of your footfalls will be absorbed by the ground rather than affecting your knees and shins. For someone who runs a lot, this kind of running is much less likely to give you splints.
Another feature of the terrain when trail running is that it’s uneven. This can potentially lead to an injury such as a twisted ankle, but only if you aren’t careful to watch where you’re going and to use the correct technique (making sure to strike the ground with the end of your feet rather than the heels for instance).
And assuming you do use the correct technique and avoid an accident, you’ll find that the terrain actually benefits your runs in a number of other ways – specifically by forcing you to work different muscles in your legs and core to stay steady and increasing the resistance that you’re working against as you run up hill/through shallow water/through thick mud. Ultimately this means that trail running is more of a workout, which results in a better hormonal response, more muscle building and toning in the legs, and more fat-burning and fitness benefits. If you want to take this a step further, then it will also be easy to start integrating an upper body workout into your training. This could mean doing pull ups from tree branches along the way, it could mean stopping to do press ups, or it could mean taking a swim even in a river.
Another big bonus with trail running is that it is necessarily outside. This means you’ll be getting fresh air and sunlight which both have a ton of benefits for our health – improving our sleep, stimulating testosterone production, strengthening our bones (through vitamin D) and elevating our mood.
Better yet are natural environments which we still associate with resources and relaxation. We evolved in environments like these and our body still recognises them as being good for us. This is why spending time in rural areas can actually reduce your blood pressure and heart rate by reducing the stress hormone cortisol. This also appears to be good for our creativity and for encouraging the flow of ideas.
Excitement and Fun
Finally, trail running is just a lot more fun and a lot more interesting than running down a busy road. This way you get to run while enjoying a beautiful natural environment, and at the same time you’ll also be able to explore, find hidden routes, challenge yourself physically and generally connect with nature again. If you think about any number of computer games, they all involve similar activities – running through beautiful environments and using quick reactions to stay upright and avoid harm. This demonstrates just how much we yearn to get back to our roots, and if you have a park, common or wood near your home then there’s nothing stopping you!