Six benefits of trail running

Six benefits of trail running

Feeling the need to mix up you’re running? Maybe you have considered trail running, but have put it off as you are striving to get that PB? As the summer months arrive, trail running can be a great time to get outdoors and reap the benefits of being with nature. We may associate trail running with mountains and vast long runs, but it can be done anywhere, where there are no surfaced or paved roads. The additional bonus to this type of run is that we take away the pressure of distance and time and instead focus more on the experience of our run. So, let’s look at the benefits to us incorporating this into our running routine.

Work out for multiple muscles

As we run on uneven surface, we are required to use more of our muscles, as all our body needs to engage to keep us balanced. This helps to develop the primary muscles and several smaller secondary support muscles including the core. Whilst we build some muscle when on flat road surfaces, we can add to this through building up the larger muscle fibres that support the power and definition of our legs.

Repetitive strain injury

When we run on the road, we use the same muscles repeatedly which can result in those annoying shin splints. The beauty of trail running is that we allow our body to have a softer surface to run on, reducing the impact on our joints and muscles and lessening the aches and pains following a run.

Mental wellbeing

We all know that running is a fantastic way to enhance our wellbeing, but this can be supercharged when we complete a trail run. Research conducted by Bratman and colleagues (2015) found that 90 minutes spent in nature reduced rumination (when the inner critic pipes on repeat), associated with depression, stress and anxiety, when compared to the same time in more built up areas. This makes sense, as trail running can focus our mind on the ground we are navigating and provide a varied scenery and sense of freedom.

Requires us to be mindful

When we are running a route we know well, we can easily get caught in a cycle of not switching off and being in our head about the things we need to do. This is understandable, as an even pavement that we have ran numerous times does not require the same focus as a new, uneven stretch with loose rocks, water, hills and trying not falling over! Our mind is only capable of focusing on one thing at a time and so a trail run can provide the ideal environment to allow our mind to calm down and take a break from the inner critic.

Being “in” nature

As the expectation of getting a fast-running time is taken away, we can allow ourselves to slow our pace down and really become aware of the environment around us. Using the different senses such as the singing of the birds, the sun, wind, rain on our skin, the smell of fields, the ground underneath our feet can uplift our mood and be a great reset to the busy lives that we lead.

Different sense of achievement

Whilst it is always good to have a goal to increase our motivation with distance and PB’s, completing a trail run can have it’s own sense of achievement. Being able to go out and experience nature, seeing different landscapes and completing a run that has had some different challenges to overcome can be rewarding.

Now that we know some of the benefits of trail running, how about trying to incorporate one of these each week? Trail runs can be fun and can be completed alone or as part of a group. Finding different routes to explore can add another dimension to our running and help us to experience new things.

This article was written by Dr Sarah Berger, Senior Clinical Psychologist, co-owner of Stressed Out to Feeling Fabulous & long standing member of the Running Woman community

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