Trail running is my absolute favorite form of exercise. The feel of the wind blowing against your face as sweat rolls down your cheek, birds chirping around you filling the air with beautiful music, and the ever-changing ground under your feet is something of magic.
Not to mention the smell of flowers, berries, grass and nature as you run through a trail, smiling at other runners and even engaging in small talk.
Many people like to sit in their homes on their treadmill – boring – and think that’s the only way to stay in shape. But for me, being out in nature and on a trail is really the right way to stay motivated, get fit and boost stamina.
If you’ve never ran on a trail before, you’re missing out.
Why Trail Running is Great For Your Health
Trail running is good for a variety of reasons, and many of these reasons may seem a little “out there” for some runners. But trust me, give it a try and you’ll fully understand why I like trail running better than any other form of running out there.
Don’t get me wrong, when it’s raining or the winter months roll in and the trail is covered in snow, I opt for another form of exercise. This year I purchased a rowing machine (thanks to the RowingAdvisor team who were a great help), and I was able to maintain my endurance and stamina through the entire winter without having to spend the entire time on the treadmill.
If you’ve never ran on a trail before, it’s important to know why this is a great exercise:
- Varied Terrain: The difference in terrain will allow you to strengthen a variety of muscles. The varied terrain will be more taxing on the muscles, causing your body to engage different muscles. Uphill, downhill and even different gradients will provide a more robust workout.
- Softer Surface: Knee, ankles and joint pain occur from running, but the ground of a trail is slightly cushioned, allowing for more impact absorption, and fewer aches and pains.
- Nature: You’ll hear about a lot of the calming moments out on a trail and even hear about the “zen” of the trail. Running out in nature is pure bliss and makes you feel alive rather than stuck on a belt with no real destination in sight.
What’s a Trail?
The definition of a trail will be different for different people. It’s important that you know what a trail is first before going on a run. A trail is a trail when the following is true:
- The trail is unpaved
- Natural obstacles exist
- Elevation gain and loss is present
- Scenic views exist
And only three of these four traits need to be present for it to be a real trail. The elevation gain and loss must be “drastic” for some definitions, but if you’re nursing an injury or you’re older, even slight or moderate differences in elevation are acceptable.
How to Start Trail Running
You may run for miles on a treadmill, but you’ll find that running on a real trail is much harder. A few tips to help you start your venture into trail running include:
- Start Slow: Look for trails in your area – there should be plenty – and start with one that is easy or moderate. From here, you can work up to new, more difficult trails.
- Wear the Right Shoes: Running shoes will be a great addition to any trail runner’s arsenal, and will provide just the right amount of cushion and traction for running on trails.
- Clothing: You may run through mud and foliage that will get you dirty. Wear washable clothing that you don’t care too much about. Wearing your Sunday best is definitely not recommended.
Trail running is fun and exciting, so bring a friend along, too.