When you have to decide between hitting the pavement or heading into the woods, it might be worth it to get a little off the beaten path. Here's why!
TRAIL RUNNING WORKS A WIDER RANGE OF MUSCLES
A trail is innately more bumpy than the perfectly-flat road and it's commonly spotted with tree roots and rocks, so you’ve got to watch your step. More significantly, you’ve got to balance your body as you run over and around these obstacles, causing you to use all of those smaller, quick reflex muscles in your legs (as well as core and arms). While the terrain of any trail can differ, most often the surface of the trail is significantly softer than concrete or asphalt, meaning that your step depresses a bit each time, requiring you to lift your leg and use more muscle each time you take a stride.
YOUR JOINTS WILL TAKE LESS OF A HIT ON THE TRAIL
Running on the trail will give your body a relief from the hard, unforgiving pavement. Trails take away a lot of stress from the impact that you’d normally get running on harder surfaces. Some of the forces that would normally be transmitted from the pavement up to the ankles, knees, shins, and hips are dissipated when the foot hits the ground on the trails, because there’s some give there.
THE FRESH AIR IS GOOD FOR YOU AND YOUR LUNGS
One of the best reasons to run on the trail is to get some fresh air—literally. Road runners in rural areas may have less traffic to grapple with than those who run on urban territory, but for both groups, getting out into the woods for a run is better for the lungs.
YOU CAN’T ZONE OUT, BUT YOU CAN GET IN THE ZONE
Trail running requires intense focus. Even if you’ve hit the same six-mile path for years on end, it ’s going to require that you watch where you’re going carefully. This kind of focus is exhilarating and energizing. What’s more, the trail doesn’t have all of the roadblocks, stop lights and cars to watch out for, making it easier to get in the zone and enjoy a more streamlined run. You may even hit a new PR.
BEING IN NATURE IS GOOD FOR YOU
Trail running takes us up the mountain, over the river and through the woods, and that often gives us a much more scenic view than we could ever hope for on an urban jaunt on the road. And if the scenery isn’t enough to sway you to the side of trail runners, perhaps the fact that nature is good for the emotional and mental well being of all humans will be. Studies have shown that just five minutes of green exercise resulted in improvements in self-esteem and mood.
IT’S QUIETER AND CALMER
Getting exercise is not only good for your heart, it produces natural endorphins that leave you feeling happier and calmer. But the calm of a good run can easily be snuffed out by the stress you feel in dodging cars or hearing the jarring sounds of construction. Trail running offers unmatched reprieve for those seeking asylum from the everyday urban sounds.