The benefits of trail running for distance road runners

By Sabrina Gonzalez | Photo by Mario Mrad/Unsplash

For endurance athletes, doing the same routine over and over again can get quite boring. If you’re looking for a different way to train for your next marathon,  consider trail running.

Trail running is a special form of long distance running performed off road—that is, over trails and unpaved terrain. The number of trail runners has slowly grown in recent years, with over five million athletes engaging in this activity in the United States alone. Although it is a sport on its own, many endurance athletes are participating in trail running as a form of training for long distance runs, marathons, and triathlons for several reasons.

It Improves Your Balance

Because it involves going through uneven paths, trail running can help increase your control and sense of balance. Running through rocks and frequent changes in ground elevation enables your body to utilize core muscles for stability and improves agility and proprioception.

Less Risk for Injury

Runners who are injured or are prone to injuries can benefit from trail running since it has less impact. Soft surfaces such as dirt or grass are easier on the joints with approximately 15 percent less pressure exerted on the feet compared to concrete pavement. Technically difficult routes also force you to run slowly, which will prevent you from developing overuse injuries or from aggravating any injuries that you may already have.

Because it involves going through uneven paths, trail running can help increase your control and sense of balance

Better for the Mind and Body

Running outdoors burns more calories because of lateral movements such as dodging branches or skipping roots. Different routes and sloped trails force you to run or walk at different paces, with effects similar to interval training. At the same time, running in a natural environment is psychologically relaxing. It cures boredom and allows you to get away from all the stresses of city life. The clean air and verdant landscapes relax the body and invigorate the mind. The wide variety in training grounds also encourages better mental focus, making you more alert while revitalizing your senses.

The great thing about trail running is that there are trails for all types of runners. Beginners should look for parks or easy dirt trails while advanced athletes can try technically challenging terrain with obstacles. Trail running can both relax and challenge the body and give a refreshing, fun dimension to endurance training.