“Running in nature can help decrease anxiety and other negative thoughts more so than in an urban setting.”
This was one of Lewis Carroll’s famous quotes taken from Alice in Wonderland. One day Alice came to a fork in the road and saw the Cheshire cat in a tree. “Which road do I take?” she asked. “Where do you want to go?” was his response. We believe most trail runners face the same question before heading off the beaten path. But that’s what trail running offers, the excitement of the unknown and a sense of adventure.
Tarmac, asphalt, concrete pavements. These are what the knees of road runners are used to. When it comes to surroundings, it would either be concrete buildings, bridges, highways, the honks from vehicles and the occasional park or two. To trail runners, what is their kind of playground? Descents, variable terrain, grueling climbs, and rugged footing; these are the ingredients of trail running.
Don’t be tied down to simply one terrain. Break free from the usual tarmac boredom and take a run to the wild side. Not only would your eyes be grateful with the change of scenery but also those knees will thank you! But what is it about trail running that intimidates runners? Is it the fear of the unknown, or the terrains or distance? Not to fret, when you’re done with this article, you’ll be a regular Bear Grylls running from a different terrain to another.
Taking Your Knees Off The Pavement
Runners share one common concern, the health of their knees. Running on man-made surfaces such as asphalt and concrete can be rough on the knees and feet. The hardness of the surface can make runners vulnerable to shin splints. A forceful landing on concrete can be strong enough to shatter blood cells. Thus reducing the amount of oxygen sent to the organs.
Compared to paved streets, unpaved trails are generally softer and provide less resistance during running. Your feet sink in slightly upon impact on an unpaved trail, which partially absorbs the force of impact with each stride. This helps cut down the overall stress in which the knees must endure.
Working A Wider Range Of Muscles
A trail is defined as a beaten path or rough path through forests. Hence it is not uncommon for a trail to be riddled with snaking tree roots and rocks. Unlike road running, you would have to balance your body as you run over and around these obstacles. This causes you to engage those core muscles for stability. Running downhill on trails in particular builds strength in your quadriceps. After all, your quads are the ones that act as brakes that keep you from spiraling downhill too fast.
Plus, research shows that trail running can burn up to 10 percent more calories than running on a road or track for the same time or distance. A fit physique may not be your main reason to head out for a trail run, but it’s not a bad side effect.