Running on a paved road has never interested me and I find I get bored and stop very quickly. I can run much further and actually enjoy myself going trail running! As an Australian I am lucky that even in our major cities most of us can find a bush trail not too far away. Today I will share with you some reasons I love trail running and how you can start trail running!
Most trails have a much softer ground to land on than paved roads. Often the trails are sandy or have some vegetation. This makes it easier on your joints when running and wearing barefoot style shoes is a lot easier.
Going through a bush trail is a constant maze. Most tracks run in all directions, up and down and many obstacles in the way. This makes you focus on the running and the trail ahead. It makes you pay attention to the moment and can be very meditative! It is also a lot of fun having to avoid obstacles and not just look at the same monotonous road the whole time.
Running alongside roads means that you are breathing in car exhaust deep into your lungs! Whilst it is generally still healthier than not running it is not a great way to run. In many city areas especially there is a lot of pollution. When you run or cycle on main roads you are breathing heavily and deeply, meaning all the pollutants are drawn much deeper into the lungs. Running on trails through bush land is a great way to breath the beautiful fresh air deeply.
As mentioned above, trails vary a lot. The variation means that you are using a whole range of small muscles to keep your ankles in line. Over time your ankles will become a lot more resilient to this type of movement. I have found after years of trail running I am much less likely to roll my ankles on bumpy ground.
Often the most amazing scenery can only be reached on foot. I have been to so many amazing bush locations that can only reached by trails. Trail running means you get to view natural landscapes as you run instead of buildings and cars!
Trail running can often lead us to hills. Running or even walking up hills is substantially harder than running on flat ground. 10 minutes of walking up a steep slope through a bush trail can often leave us feeling like we have done more exercise than an hour of flat running! Bush trails are much more likely to contain steep hills than roadways. Climbing hills on foot is the greatest way to improve your cardiovascular fitness.
How to get started
So after reading these reasons above you have decided you want to get started trail running. Here are a few things to keep in mind:
No modern day post would be complete without some reference to OHS issues. Running on roads we have the dangers of cars. Running in the bush the dangers are mostly from the potentially harsh environment. When trail running always ensure you are paying attention to the ground beneath you. Even trails you run regularly can change and a wrong foot placement can be very painful.
In summer watch for snakes or any other wildlife that could cause potential harm. Taking a first aid kit in a small camelback is a very good idea when going on any trail run. Taking a bit of extra water and food is also a good idea as you never know what may happen.
Shoes are a very personal issue. The only way to know which footwear is best is to try a few different shoes out. I wear ‘barefoot’ style running shoes on trail runs and I find that they are the best footwear to use. Regular running shoes may work but often they can feel cumbersome in comparison to smaller shoes. Try out different shoes and see what works for you.
Running on roads means that you are generally not far away from help if you injure yourself. In the bush we can potentially be a long way from help. In many trails close to cities you will still get phone reception in the bush so take your phone with you and check if you do get reception or not. Many bush areas do not get reception so never solely rely on a phone as a guaranteed method of communication.
Personal Location Beacons are small GPS fitted devices that can be purchased for use in remote areas. I carry one on extended runs or walks in remote terrain. If you do run into trouble, activation one of these will guide rescuers directly to your location saving any sort of time delay!
When venturing into the bush for a run or any sort of activity ALWAYS inform somebody exactly which trail you are going to go on and when you will be expected to return. If any of you have seen the movie 127 hours you will understand the importance of letting somebody know where you are. If you are missing in the bush and nobody has any idea of which trail you started from it is almost impossible to ever find you so ALWAYS tell somebody!
If you are a regular road runner you will likely have the cardiovascular fitness to run a long way on trails already. It is tempting to push it hard straight away but during the first few weeks ease your body into it! Otherwise you may end up with overuse injuries due to the way trail running effects the body. Once you have adapted your body to trail running you can push it harder.
Trail running is an awesome way to get fit and stay fit. It is a lot of fun and often feels like you are not exercising anywhere near as hard as you actually are! Get out there and give it a go and you may just find you enjoy it too.
Do you ever go trail running?