We all have those days. The days when you have to drag yourself to the gym after a long day in the office. You’re feeling lethargic after sitting in a chair for the past 8 hours. You remind yourself that the way out of this funk is through it. The endorphins will reward you – just keep going.
You hop on the treadmill. You swiftly find your pace as the whining belt begins to roll. You put one foot in front of the other, in the same way that an inmate walks when they are shackled with leg cuffs. You look around you and everyone seems to be in a trance, lifeless to their experience.
It is undeniable that the treadmill is an irreplaceable assistant to exercising outdoors when the weather isn’t permitting. However, hamster wheels offer little in terms of enjoyment other than the feeling of relief that the torture is finally over.
Taking your endeavors outside is a step up in terms of enjoyment. Running enthusiasts who steer clear from roads, sidewalks, and treadmills and instead head for the trails – are famously called trail runners. The popularity of the sport has exploded in recent years and for good reason.
Whether you run deep in the woods, creating your own path, or on a pre-made trail created specifically for running, the same benefits still apply. In the article below, we go over 12 reasons why Trail Running should be a replacement for your treadmill.
1. Trail Running saves your knees from aches and pains.
The journey of the runner starts off with enthusiasm. It’s a freeing feeling to be able to run miles and miles without your car. Although your mind might be ready to take on the world, your body might say otherwise. The constant pounding on pavement can be hard on your knees. Fortunately, running on trails is an alternative that can alleviate this discomfort. Grass, dirt and mud provide less resistance. Your feet are able to sink in partially, absorbing the force of the impact. This helps cut down the strain that your knees take on each stride. Extend the life of your knees and find a trail in your area!
2. There are no cars to watch out for, but there are bears!
Trail Running is not known to be an overly safe activity. Setting out alone into jagged trails filled with dangerous wildlife seems all but safe. But looking at the statistics of runners being struck by vehicles in the city make trails seem like a safe haven. According to the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA), 16% of all car accidents actually occur to pedestrians. In 2018, there were over 6,000 people killed by motor vehicles. That is a scary statistic! Trail Running has its own array of dangers, but the likelihood is much lower. Not to mention that they are highly preventable. Wildlife and other environmental dangers are more in your control as a Trail Runner. Trail Runners carry gear like mace with them to protect them from wildlife. Stay safe and consider bringing your runs off the road.
3. Trail Running is Super Engaging.
No matter how technical the trail you are running, trails are engaging in multiple ways. Firstly, uneven terrain, exposed roots and other obstacles mean that you have to be laser focused on your surroundings to avoid falling (although, falling is inevitable). Being focused on your surroundings makes Trail Running just as much of a mental activity as a physical one. Road running requires less mental focus because you are often running on flat ground. It becomes an exercise in repetition. And that’s no fun! Secondly, there is a large visual and auditory aspect of Trail Running. Meaning you are not only more mindful of your running technique, but also drawn into your landscape through the sights and sounds. We like to think of Trail Running as graduating from Road Running.
4. You become a master of hills.
Trail Running takes you from peaks to valleys. And then from valleys to peaks…Trails vary greatly in elevation, which is great for improving your strength, endurance and overall running technique. Hills act as a type of resistance training which means you are able to work all the muscles involved at a greater intensity than you would on a flat surface. Repeating this training will make you stronger and more efficient not only on hills, but also on flat ground. Forcing your body to explode up elevated trails also improves your overall running technique which will ultimately increase your pace. There is no better way to improve as a runner than taking up the trails.
5. The Trail Running subculture is unique.
The warming kick of endorphins that fills your body after a run is arguably one of the best feelings of running. However, Trail Running also brings a sense of camaraderie, belonging and inclusiveness to a sport that is otherwise very individualistic. Trail Runners are passionate about their sport on a deeper level. This passion and like-mindedness creates a community feel that is unlike any sport available to us. Join the movement, but be careful…it is addicting.
6. Every trail provides a distinct running experience.
Everyone likes a change of scenery in their daily, weekly or monthly runs. It keeps things interesting and also challenges you to push yourself. Fortunately, every trail gives you a unique experience. From the difficulty of the trail, the type of terrain and the scenery you take in, every trail has something unique to offer you.
7. Trail Running makes you better at other sports.
As we talked about in #4, Trail Running helps to build muscle and endurance through more resistive terrains. Think about having a big parachute on your back and trying to run. This is what trails do over traditional paved road running. This has a positive effect on your legs, abdominal muscles, and your heart. These benefits transfer into other sports and activities. It is no secret that Trail Runners come from all walks of life. Many are involved in other endurance based activities and will undoubtedly see the perks of trail running transfer into their other sports.
8. Trails are less crowded than city streets.
Sometimes we need to escape the hustle and bustle of city life. Who can blame us? Being surrounded, shoulder to shoulder in seas of people can get tiresome. Trails are often so big that it is common to not come in contact with anyone over the course of your run. What a great way to check out for a few hours and enjoy your own company!
9. Level up your selfie game.
If your Instagram is looking a little bland, go for a trail run. The things you will see will definitely spice things up. You might encounter some friendly deer, or maybe a not-so-friendly snake. Regardless, trail running is always an adventure filled with new and exciting things to document for yourself or the world. Not only will the scenery impress all your friends and family, you are reaping the benefits of running at the same time.
10. Trail running can turn into a mini-vacation.
Trail Running is addicting. Plain and simple. One of the things that happens as we get deeper into the sport is that we start to dabble in Ultra Running. Ultra Running is Trail Running, but on steroids. Think longer races between 50 or even 100 miles. They often span multiple days! Some people enjoy relaxing on the beach, but if you have the itch to try something new, try turning Trail Running into a mini-vacation. Bring along enough gear to camp overnight and run during the waking hours of the day. Your loved ones will question your sanity, but it may be one of the most memorable experiences you have as a runner.
11. Running at higher elevations make low elevations runs a breeze.
You might have seen rise of the gym-goers in your area wearing weird looking masks. These are not Halloween masks! They are altitude training masks that force your lungs and heart to work harder, simulating higher elevations. There are good reasons for wearing these types of training masks. Training at elevations “between 6,000 and 10,000 feet above sea level–is like legal doping, thanks to its ability to boost oxygen-carrying red blood cells.” And the best part about training at elevation is that the benefits stay with your for a week or two after returning to sea level. So if you want a legal way to get a leg up on your competition, plan some altitude training before your next race!
12. Kiss your love handles goodbye.
If weight loss is a primary motivator to get into trail running, a recent study published in the Journal of Experimental Biology has shown that running on uneven surfaces cause you to expend 5% more energy over flat surfaces. According to the Compendium of Physical Activities, this means a woman who weighs 135 pounds can expect to burn almost 600 calories in an hour of off-road running. Do not feel guilty indulging on the weekends, knowing that you have a sport that can melt the fat away.