Benefits of Trail Running

Benefits of Trail Running

It’s been a quiet time in FauxRunner land. No just because of the post-race blues, but because of so many things that are happening or that need to happen and thoughts and inaction. In short, things are draining and overwhelming and I don’t have anything on my plate. But – no training plans also means that I can run whenever and whereever I want! This weekend, I suddenly chose to go up the trails and actually grabbed my trail shoes on the way to the car. One of the most amazing things about living in Atlanta is how close you are to nature even while you live in urban/suburban concrete jungles. 

The Sope Creek trails where I ran over the weekend starts from the same parking lot that I can run/walk on flat or bike on the road. It is in the heart of East Cobb and only in winter when the trees are bare you can see that you are never too far from the road. 

I had not run on these trails for more than 18 months. Within 5 minutes of the run, I tripped and fell face down. Luckily, my face didn’t hit the ground – all those falls this season have taught me to tuck and protect! But bloody knee or not, I know I’ll be running a lot more of the trails in winter. In fact, I wanted to target a 50k trail race in spring if I had not had the opportunity to fundraise for the London Marathon.

So why run on trails? What are some of the benefits of trail running?

Benefits of Trail Running

1. Run for the Soul

Everytime I run on trails, I feel like I’m running for mind, body and soul. I don’t need music, I don’t need people. I’m zoned out, yet I’m zoned in. I’m carefree, but I’m focusing at the same time. (And have you seen the aid stations at trail races?! Enough said!)

Atlanta Trail Running

2. Trail running forces you to pay attention 

Paying attention to your running form helps you pick up your feet and not shuffle. And hence activating those all important glutes. Your ankles, hamstrings, calves, are all used in different ways.  Instead of the same exact running movement like you would on a road, you’re running in slightly different movements because you have to accommodate the uneven terrain.

Benefits of Trail Running
Pick up your feet to run and watching your footing or enjoy some shinned knees!

3. A break for your feet

The soft surface of trails gives your feet a break from pounding concrete or asphalt sidewalks. One of my worst season with nagging hip issues was when I’d run only on sidewalks. With Dopey training, I ran almost all my long runs on a combination of asphalt road and soft flat trails and the long mileage didn’t bother me as much.

Benefits of Trail Running

4. Hill Repeats

Mike (and Chance) of AVC Endurance is a big pusher of hill repeats. He’d make me run hill repeats to build leg strength – just like weighed squats, instead more run specific. Most of the trails have varied terrain and you can do plenty of hills going up and down and up and down. All without cursing the “hilly course” because who could curse such beauty around you!

Trail Running
You never know when hills will show up!

5. You learn to appreciate nature more

So often the mundane everyday life overtakes us and we need a reminder on how marvelous nature around us is. Even when the trails have beaten me down, there’s a heartiness in my chest that lingers with me. Just the fact that I’m surrounded by the things that came far far far before me on earth fills me with wonder and peace.

You might be surprised by a family of deer, who are equally surprised to see you.

Kennesaw Mountain Trails
See on my trail runs at Kennesaw Mountain last year

Or you might be left breathless catching the sun rising up as you run towards it after cresting a hill.

Kennesaw Mountain Trails

Do you ever run on trails? If you do, what do you like best about it? What tips would you offer others interested in trail running? How would you help them transition from a road runner to a trail runner?


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