“The woods are lovely, dark, and deep, But I have promises to keep, And miles to go before I sleep,And miles to go before I sleep.” ~Robert Frost
When was the last time you ran like a wild man or woman in the woods such that the experience was not only physically enthralling but nurtured your soul? Whether you’re stuck in a running rut, bored by your neighborhood routes or just plain hate the treadmill, it might be time to leave the road behind and head to the trails. Trail running is a sport which consists of running and hiking over trails (a path, track or unpaved lane or road). It differs from road running and track running in that it generally takes place on hiking trails, often in mountainous terrain, where there can be much larger ascents and descents. Because of the natural or serene setting, trail running is viewed as a more spiritual activity than roadside running or jogging. In the UK and Ireland it is called mountain or fell running. Trail running satisfies a primal need for movement through nature, presumably left over from our days as hunters. When things spin out of control in an age of i-Pads and Droids, running in the woods is one thing we can count on to be pretty much the same as it’s always been. Heading out on a trail instead of pavement is appealing for so many reasons. So what does the average road runner have to gain from venturing out into the wilderness?
Two things. First, reduced risk of injury: The soft, ever-varying surface of the trail lessens the likelihood of an overuse injury, strengthens core muscles, and ultimately makes for more comfortable long runs than asphalt. Second, a rush that road running just can’t give you. Escaping into the woods or meadows gives you a nature experience that a road run often cannot, and a trail's softer surface gives your body a break, too. It should come as no surprise that soaking in the essence of the forest results in a quantifiably-greater endorphin release than does breathing in roadside fumes.
The benefits of trail running span the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual areas of your life. Compared to hitting the pavement, trail running burns 10 percent more calories while improving balance and agility. Runners get a tougher workout because the uneven terrain demands more lateral movements that keep the core engaged. Trail running also works different muscles with every step, while a shorter stride strengthens ankles and hips and reduces the impact on joints. Many runners, even at the highest level, incorporate trail running into their training to prevent overuse injuries.
Getting Started: If you’re ready for an adventure of your own, follow some of these best tips beginners should know before hitting the trails.
Find a trail - You don’t have to trek into a deep, dark forest to begin. Trail running includes anything that is off-road and away from paved surfaces. It could be as simple as a bike path or just running in the grass, dirt or sand. Beginners can get started on flat terrain, perhaps with a cross-country run in the grass of a park.
Grab the right gear: The same clothes that you wear on roads work for trails, but choose something that you don’t mind getting dirty. Road shoes work fine for short runs. If you decide to stick with trail running, however, you’ll eventually want to get a pair of trail shoes. They offer a stronger, protective sole and greater stability than most road shoes. And just like any adventure, it’s best to come prepared with some basic essentials. These include water (usually in the form of a sleek handheld bottle or a hydration pack), bug spray and a headlamp if you plan to run when it’s dark outside. And don’t forget a towel and a change of clothes, socks, and shoes for afterward. If you’re doing it right, you’ll be wet and dirty by the end of the run.
Slow down and take short, quick strides. You can expect to run about 20 percent slower on trails for a given level of exertion than you would on roads. You’ll find steeper hills, more side-to-side movement, and lots of obstacles to deal with. Trail running is most fun when you forget about pace and do what feels good. Shorten your stride so that your weight is over your feet most of the time; this allows you to react quickly and maintain balance.
Scan the ground five to ten feet in front of you as you run: When you’re running trails, you need to pay extra attention to where you step. As you notice an approaching obstacle, shift your attention to your feet to do whatever is necessary to clear the obstacle.
Be safe. It’s not called “the wild” for nothing: Whenever possible, run with a friend. Tell someone where you’re going and bring a map and cell phone if you’re running a new trail for the first time. Have a first aid kit in the car, and carry extra food with you for emergencies. Do a little research on the area you’re running - how to deal with the wildlife, when and where hunting takes place, when the sun goes down, and anything else that might pose a danger.
Having understood the benefits, it’s time to get started with a train run. To get the most out of your train running, here we present “THE TRAIL RUNNING WORKOUT” by Shelby, an NASM Certified Personal Trainer and a Fitness Instructor at FitWithMeShelby.
THE TRAIL RUNNING WORKOUT (Reproduced with permission from https://fitwithmeshelby.com)
There are so many reasons to trail run … from soul searching to reducing impact placed on the knees … I may just be inspired by all of the craze I’ve seen pop up around trail running, or maybe I am just amped for spring. Either way, that’s what this workout is all about. So get motivated to hit the dirt and find a new path to travel. Or, if you feel like just hiking, use the moves to get a little extra out of your adventure!
1) Run Uphill- It’s pretty easy to go up if you’re starting at the bottom of a hill, so this is a no-brainer! However, the key is to run at different intensities from walking to sprinting. Go for switching up the pace every 30 seconds. 2) Run Downhill- After running up hill it might not sound too appealing to run back down, but believe it or not it is extremely good for the body. Opening your stride limits painful knee impact that short hard steps do when going downhill. It is also a proprioceptive rich movement, meaning it teaches the brain to work better with the body, which in turn leads to better coordination! Who wouldn’t want to be less clumsy?! 3) Tricep Dips- A) Angle your body back on a rock or ledge so that it is completely straight head to toe. B) Lower and lift your butt, engaging your Triceps (outer arm muscles) to guide you. 4) Incline Push Ups- A) Find a sturdy rock to lean against, arms straight with hands only about 6-inches apart. B) Bend your elbows back and bring your chest to the rock for one push up. 5) Downward Dog- Once you’re to the top of the trail its time to cool off with some yoga. Start in Downward Dog. Feet 6-inches apart, arms over ears, and spine completely straight. 6) Upward Dog- This one made me feel like the little mermaid of the mountains! Lay on your stomach with your hands by your hips, then straighten your arms, lifting your chest from the ground. 7) Warrior 2- Open your stance and lunge forward on one leg while leaving the back one straight. Your front foot should be pointed forward and your back twisted 90 degrees. Straighten your arms out parallel to the ground. 8) Tree- Stand tall on one leg, the other bent with your foot resting either above or below your knee. Bring your hands together at the center of your chest and embrace your beautiful surroundings.
End note : While train running may still sound challenging to beginners, as Carl Jung has said, “If the path before you is clear, you are probably on someone else’s.” So Go ahead and blaze a trail for others to follow. Happy Trails.