the Beaten Path
The Benefits of Trail Running
it’s nearly fall in the Carolinas. No more ninety degree
temps, and cooler nights. This time of year has me
thinking of two things- College football and trail
love trail running, unfortunately the biting flies are so
bad here over the summer that it is virtually impossible
to run on the trails without a bug net and a can of OFF!
I live about three miles from a forest and 9 months
out of the year I do most of my running there except my
track workouts. If you’re sick of the blacktop and want
to know of the many pleasures and benefits of trail
running than read on!
I moved to this area almost 3
years ago, but was nursing chronic injuries and not very
active. Once my injuries healed and I was able to start
running again I started looking for various roads to run
on. Low and behold I lived 3 miles from an experimental
forest run by the university. Miles and miles of trails to
mountain bike and run on.
Quickly I was hooked!!!!
First of all, there was the sheer beauty of the
forest. Some trails rapped around mountain spring filled
lakes, others up high enough to see to the other side of
the county and others twisted and looped around to make
you feel like you were on a ride at Disneyworld.
Second, was the wildlife.
Deer, chipmunks, ducks, or an occasional skunk or
snake L would
cross my path. Most notably, though, was the lack of cars
and people. With no one to yell at you or make the
occasional “get off the road” remark, running took on
a new found pleasure!
“OK, Steve, we get the
picture; nice place to run but, what are the physical
benefits?” Well, the physical benefits of running on
trails are numerous. Trails are much softer than blacktop
and afford your feet and legs less pounding.
So, trails are great for coming back after an
injury or for logging mega miles on.
Trails can be hilly. Usually these hills are
steeper than the kind found on the road, and can really
build up your quads and calves. Trails are great for
improving ankle strength. Since, most trails have an
uneven surface they force the tendons around your leg to
“stabilize” during foot fall. This increases ankle
strength which can be of great benefit in cycling and at
the end of an Ironman.
On roads you don’t have to hop over logs or under
tree limbs- or sometimes crawl. On some trails, the whole
body can get workout and not just the legs.
Trails can add variety to your weekly workouts and
stave off boredom. The absence of cars means less
pollution into your lungs. The absence of people can
really give you strength of mind to know you can finish
when it gets tough, this can be extremely helpful
at the end of a long race.
“Alright then, how do I get
started?” First thing I would do is “scout” the area
and make sure it’s safe to run. The local bike shop
might have a map of local trails to help you. Second, I
would get a good pair of trail shoes or on/off road shoes.
Many companies sell them, and I would recommend New
Balance or Asics. Buy a hydration system, such as the
Ultimate torso pack or the Camelback go-be, to keep the
liquids in you. Although many streams appear safe, the
truth is many animals bathe and urinate in them. YUK!
Another good idea is to carry a filtered bottle if
you are planning on going long. Some type of insect
repellent to rub on your legs and ankles is a good idea as
well since Lyme disease is carried by small ticks that can
cause chronic fatigue syndrome in humans. Also a good idea
to check yourself for ticks in the shower when you get
home. I run
by myself much of the time I spend in the forest. But, it
is an area I am now familiar with and feel safe in. I
would recommend that you run with a buddy until you feel
safe and even then, in some areas it’s probably better
to run with others. It is just my personnal preference to
“get away from it all” and spend my long runs alone in
the solitude of nautre-did that sound philosophical or
Well, anyways, I think you get
the picture. Trail running is both enjoyable and
beneficial. If you live close to some trails give it a try
, who knows you may enjoy it as much as I do! HAPPY
TRAIL-sorry, I had to go for that one! Steve