Over the last decade, trail running has grown significantly in popularity. Certainly, the appeal of nature and the outdoors is one reason for its growth. Likewise, the number of off-road races has also increased, including mud runs and obstacle courses. While these hint at why more runners are running trails, they don’t paint the entire picture. The most important reason trail running is attractive involves the numerous advantages it offers to runners. And this is also why trail running will continue to appeal to runners everywhere. Here are 8 amazing benefits that running trails can offer.
1. Running Trails Offer Variety
Every state has parks and running trails. Rather than running your same neighborhood streets, trails offer great variety. Not only does this boost your level of motivation, but it can help make each run an adventure.
2. Trail Running Is Great Cross-Training
Trails are inherently uneven and sometimes unpredictable. Therefore, you’ll use different muscles every time you decide to try out a new trail. As a result, you’ll get a more comprehensive workout while cross-training muscles you normally don’t use when running.
3. Trails Are Easy on the Joints
Pounding the pavement or asphalt can make for weary joints. Over time, this can lead to joint injury as well as arthritic changes. Running trails, on the other hand, provides a softer surface for running. This is naturally easier on your joints and will keep you running longer.
4. Trail Running Reduces Injury Risk
In addition to reducing joint problems, running trails also reduces your chances of repetitive strains and injuries. Because you don’t get into a consistent and repetitive pattern, overuse problems are less likely. With the right trail running gear, you’re likely to spend more time running and less time recovering.
5. Running Trails Burns More Calories
Did you know trail running burns more calories than road running? In fact, most trail runners burn 60-90 more calories an hour compared to road runners. This is a nice bonus that running trails offers that you probably didn’t expect.
6. Trail Running Improves Your Balance
The uneven terrain of running trails requires you to pay much more attention to your balance. As a result, including trails in your regular running routine can enhance your balance over time. This will not only make you a better runner overall but will improve your mobility in many other ways.
7. Outdoors Offers Better Air Quality
For many, their regular runs take them alongside major roadways and thoroughfares. This is especially true if you live in an urban setting. But trail running allows you to escape city areas and enjoy the fresh air of nature. This is not only good for your lungs but also good for your soul.
8. Trail Running Enhances Mindfulness
If you’ve ever gone hiking, then you know you have to pay attention to where you’re going. Running trails is the same way. Because of this, you have no choice but to be present in the moment. Therefore, trail running offers a great exercise in mindfulness by default and helps to melt your stress away.
Plan Some Trail Running Play Dates into Your Routine
There are many great benefits to trail running. But most importantly, running trails is simply fun. Rather than trying to keep a specific pace, you’re more likely to find yourself simply immersed in the joy of running. As a result, you look forward to not only running on soft terrain but your street runs as well. Variety is the spice of life, and for a runner, trail running adds a little zest. Therefore, make plans for a few trail runs in your future and enjoy all the benefits it has to offer.
Author Note: Whether you are running on a remote trail or on your neighborhood streets, having a comfortable way to carry important items like your ID, phone, keys, fuel, water, etc. is important for both comfort and safety. Find a running belt that works for you. Best in class running belts, like FlipBelt, even have reflective options to help keep you safe during your early morning or evening runs.
By Dawna Stone, author of ten books and founder of Women's Running magazine and Virtual Women's Half Marathon series.