While jogging is already healthy, doing so on a trail adds another dimension
From dirt tracks to mountain paths and woodland trails, there is no shortage of varieties of terrain to explore in trail running.
And the sense of freedom and adventure that comes with getting out into the countryside is hard to beat.
Here are our 10 top reasons to hit the trails:
GET SOME QUIET TIME
Running along a trail can be a welcome change from the noise and bustle of busy urban streets.
You can enjoy your run without having to stop to wait for traffic lights or to dodge pedestrians.
The lack of enforced breaks will make you stronger and fitter and getting away into a quieter, less polluted environment is a fantastic way of relieving stress.
Trail running leads you away from the hustle and bustle of the street
BURN MORE CALORIES
Because most trails will find you weaving in and out of various landscapes and up and down hills they are generally much harder to run on than roads so you can run for less time to get the same calorie burn as on a longer road-run.
IMPROVE BALANCE/ CORE STABILITY
The stronger your core abdominal muscles and the better balanced you are, the better runner you will be.
Core work is an essential element of any runner’s training but doing sit-ups and planks is not something many of us enjoy.
However simply running on the uneven terrain of a woodland trail or moor, where staying upright at times can be a challenge in itself, really gets those core muscles working.
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LOWER IMPACT ON JOINTS
Trails are generally softer and provide a little more natural cushioning than hard pavements.
Because of the softer ground, your feet sink in slightly which partially absorbs the force of impact with each stride, much in the same way as cushioning in modern running shoes.
This in turn reduces the reaction force your joints have to endure each time you take a stride, reducing the overall impact and potentially reducing the risk of injury.
RECONNECT WITH NATURE
For a lot of runners a real love for trail running comes from being among nature and feeling more connected to the great outdoors – and more often than not they’re not far away.
Although open spaces might be hard to find in big cities, head a few miles as the crow flies and you might find yourself striding across hills or in a forest, surrounded by spectacular scenery.
Runners looking to reconnect with nature will find a trail highly beneficial
IMPROVE MENTAL STRENGTH
Running on trails can be hard work and can be relentless.
You are likely to be working harder than normal, using different muscles to those used on the road.
The chances are you will be running uphill at some point. You’re likely to get lost, you’ll more than likely fall, you’ll go around a corner praying the slope will level off, only to find another mile of steep incline.
But this makes you tough because it forces you to tell your head to continue, to not give in.
A large part of successful running is mental strength and running on trails can be a huge part of that improvement.
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Running alone isn’t a great sport for building friendships.
However you’ll find that exploring new trails and sharing adventures builds a real camaraderie between fellow runners.
REDUCE STRESS LEVELS
Running releases endorphins, the chemicals that the body uses to help reduce pain and relieve anxiety.
They can also give you a huge sense of satisfaction, often known as the “runner’s high”.
When you mix this with the beauty of nature and the sense of freedom you experience, the positive effects on mental wellbeing can be huge.
Running can help you forge closer bonds or make new friends
INCREASE LEG STRENGTH
Hills can be a runner’s best friend and there are a lot of them out on the trails.
They can improve your posture and speed. Running uphill forces you to lift your knees higher and at a faster rate in order to maintain speed.
This in turn enables you to run faster when running on the flat.
Because you are making your body produce a higher force to propel you up the hill, your leg strength will increase too.
IMPROVE ANKLE STABILITY
When you run on roads, your foot strikes the Tarmac in the same way over and over again.
But the very nature of uneven ground means that your joints and tendons are actually strengthened when trail running.
The undulating and uneven nature of this kind of running can be fantastic for your awareness of individual muscles and ankle stability.
You constantly have to adapt to the terrain with each step, which helps to strengthen muscles and ligaments in your ankles.
This means you’ll have a lower chance of rolling your ankle if you land at a bad angle and you’ll lose less energy through ankle movement when you get back on the road.