Trail running is a liberating form of exercise that offers a greater sense of freedom than running on the pavement. Paths and roads in towns are getting increasingly busier, so trail running can provide a welcome relief from the hustle and bustle. It might not be practical to trail run for every workout – especially for those who live in an urban area – but planning ahead means that it can still be a weekly or even fortnightly activity.
When looking for great trails to run, it’s worth remembering that no two trails are the same. The route options are limitless, and you might be surprised how many trails are within walking or driving distance of your home. It’s worth remembering that 80% of the UK is considered ‘rural’ and can offer a surprising number of different trails to explore. Please see the embedded PDF for some information about trail running locations in the UK.
Nutrition and Health Benefits
As with any sport, eating right is key to making sure your body is prepared for the task ahead. It is important for trail runners to eat a balanced diet and keep well hydrated during their runs. Experienced trail runners such as Richard Mallett believe that maintaining a balanced diet is absolutely crucial to success in any sport.
The variety that comes naturally to trail running means that the runner’s body will use a greater range of muscles than if they were running on smooth, flat pavement. Trails that include mud, flat areas and hills will ensure a workout that goes beyond the runner’s legs, also targeting the muscles in their core, feet and ankles. Over time, this type of varied exercise will help to improve balance and coordination across all running surfaces.
When running on tarmac, each stride tends to put pressure on the same muscles. With trail running, the mixed terrain means that the runner’s stride is constantly changing, spreading the pressure out rather than working the same muscles and joints repeatedly. This makes injury less likely.
When running roads or tracks, the focus can easily end up being on average speed or distance covered. With trail running, the terrain itself is the challenge. For example, a trail run through a forest could have fallen trees, rocks, roots and other obstacles. It is important for trail runners to always focus on the terrain a few strides ahead so they can account for obstacles and hazards and avoid injury. It’s easy to be distracted when trail running because the routes and locations are often full of natural beauty.
An off-road run does require a little more preparation than a run on tarmac. The nature of trail running means that factors such as the weather and when it will get dark need to be considered to ensure a planned route isn’t dangerous. Of course, this doesn’t mean trail running can’t be enjoyed in bad weather; in fact, a run in less than favourable weather can be just as rewarding as running in perfect conditions, provided that adequate preparation has been made.