5 Body and Soul Benefits of Trail Running

Trail Running |HappyFitMama.com

One of my goals for this summer is to get out on the trails more often. There’s just something about the trails that makes running more fun. Jumping over creeks, hopping over downed trees, I feel like a kid again.

The one thing that has prevented me from doing more trail running is having someone to go with.  Blame it on one too many horror movies and just being overly cautious. I refuse to go by myself. I don’t feel safe. You never know when Sasquatch or Yetti will show up. Or worse.

Over the weekend I had the opportunity to head out with two friends for some trail therapy. It was just what we all needed. Peaceful, laid back and oh so gentle on our joints. I’m by no means an expert on the trails but our time off the road reinforced the benefits of trail running. We all agreed weekly trail therapy is going to happen.

It Slows You Down

When you are running on the trails, you will go slower. Technical terrain and uneven footing, makes you be aware of each step.

I tend to run by feel instead of a strict pace when on the trails. You’ll naturally slow down on hills or when you’re avoiding an obstacle.

Effort, rather than a specific pace per mile, is what really counts when you’re trail running. Expect your pace to be at least 1-2 minutes slower than road running. I wear my Garmin but it’s just for mileage not pace.

Get Faster

With trail running, there’s bound to be more hills. Hills are speed work in disguise, right? It’s the most efficient form of strength training for runners since it uses all the muscles you activate when running on flat surfaces, but builds greater strength due to the increased resistance.

Works More Muscles

Stepping over tree roots, rocks and hopping across muddy spots will make you use more muscles than road running. You’re also working on bal­ance as you run over and around these obsta­cles, caus­ing you to use smaller, lesser-used mus­cles in your legs, core and arms.

Better Technique

Running on an uneven surface makes you use shorter, quicker strides and land more on the forefoot than the heel. It requires less energy and allows for faster tempo (which is what you want).

Good for the Soul

Fresh air, babbling brooks, quiet, calm, green spaces. Being out in nature is just what the soul needs to be refreshed and rejuvenated. You don’t have to deal with traffic, stopping at stop lights, creeper beepers. What’s more relaxing – loud motorcycles zooming by you or the wind through the trees? I’ll take the wind any day!

Trail running can be intimidating. Most people think it’s all scaling mountain peaks and boulders. But don’t be afraid. Grab a friend and get dirty on the trails!

Your body and soul will thank you.

55 comments on “5 Body and Soul Benefits of Trail Running

  1. I couldn’t agree more. Especially about going with people! Definitely creepy by yourself. The time just passes so quickly on the trails, even paved trails are better than street running.
    Tara Newman recently posted..Sign Up for Success!My Profile

  2. This is great Angela! I can definitely see why it should be easy to love trails, and when I am no longer a high level athlete I definitely will….you can hold me to that…..but right now I am scared as I am clumsy and when I last spent time in trails I fell on my knee and needed 3 stitches (and couldnt run for 10 days), and then fell again the next time! I cannot risk it right now, but can I live through you till I can? 🙂
    Tina Muir recently posted..Meatless Monday: Sweet Potato and Goats Cheese Mushroom CapsMy Profile

  3. I agree with all of the above! I’m a trail running newbie and am trying to learn as much as I can because I’ve got The North Face Endurance Challenge Ontario coming up in June. I’ve been out for just a couple of trail runs so far, but I totally agree with everything you said – I’ve been loving it so far!
    Angela @ Eat Spin Run Repeat recently posted..May 2014 Goal Check-In and 3 for JuneMy Profile

    1. I’m the same, I love trail running too.
      Don’t get me wrong road racing is fun, but it’s always about speed, and pb’s. While trail running is about enjoying your surrounds.
      Well that’s what I get out of it.
      Matilda recently posted..Taco SoupMy Profile

  4. I love trail running! I am a lot slower, but it never bothers me, you are so right , the hills and the other challenges are such a different kind of workout, I never worry about pace. I do wear different shoes on trails, for now I have Montrails and they have worked really well for me. My trail shoes are muddy and broken in looking as they should be 🙂 I have seen folks running in their regular shoes at times. Do you run in trail shoes?
    karen recently posted..Hiking DayMy Profile

    1. I’ve been wearing my regular running shoes lately since I’m just getting back into it. I’ve run in Salomon trail runners before and really liked them. I’m thinking I might need a new pair. Haha – any excuse for new sneakers! 🙂

  5. I love trail running! I grew up spending a lot of time in the woods so traffic freaks me out way more than solo trail running. Not to be creeper but I think in the picture you’re on one of my absolute favorite local trails! It’s on my way home from work so I can change at work and stop for a run on my way home. So much better than dodging cars!
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  6. I do love how trails make you slow down. And definitely – it works many more muscles than you realize. I hurt worse today after my 25k trail race than I did after running any of my previous marathons.

  7. I’ve only tried running on a trail once during last year’s Turkey Trot. Honestly, I hated it. It was sooo so hard and I was so worried about falling or twisting an ankle that I couldn’t really enjoy it. But maybe if I tried again and really tried to take time to enjoy it …

    1. It does take some coordination. My ankles are so bendy from being sprained so much that thankfully, I tend to bounce right back. *knock on wood*

  8. I hardly ever run trails, but I think some of my best running memories have been on trails! You’re right–there’s something about the thrill of dodging roots/stumps/holes/etc that makes it so fun
    Karen recently posted..Lakeside weekendMy Profile

  9. Completely agree and I also have major plans to hit some trails…just as soon as my puppy’s shots are all done! I’ve listed the major climbs in my area that have dog friendly trails and we’ll work our way up to bagging the big peaks! Hope you get comfortable with the idea of going alone eventually so that you’re not missing out on more trail opportunities! I know ladies who carry portable HAM radios and/or spray, that sort of thing.
    Running Hutch recently posted..Being the Last Runner in a Relay.My Profile

    1. The only time I can run with my Cooper is on the trails. He won’t run at all if he’s on a leash. I don’t blame him – trails are more fun!

    1. I know what you mean. That’s the downside to trails – getting in the car to get there. I just like to lace up and go!

  10. You know you are preaching to my choir! There’s just nothing better. I’m so excited, too, b/c one of my friends has become a big trail running convert, so now I will have more opportunities at company out there. Glad you found yours!
    misszippy1 recently posted..Cheers to title nineMy Profile

    1. You don’t know how excited I was when my friends said they wanted to do more trails. All of my other friends that do run strictly trails are more of evening runners. It doesn’t work for me!

  11. Haha no way! I literally just wrote about my first trail run today! I liked it but I thought it was really hard and scary at times. I am going to keep trying it – this is something I do want to get better at! I love all your points and definitely agree with them!
    Kristen recently posted..Try New Things Tuesday: Trail Running!My Profile

  12. I definitely don’t have ear plugs in when I trail run – it seems like it is harder to see people coming in front of or behind you with all the twists and turns. Other than that – trail running is awesome.

  13. I’ve been getting into more trail running and love it. I just did a trail run in SF and was laughing and smiling the entire time, even with the crazy stairs we had to climb up and trudging through sand 🙂 It’s so much fun.

    I agree about being out there alone and wanting other people with you. I tend to be alone but carry defensive gear for the just in case. Some of my big fears on the trails are rattlesnakes, mountain lions and spraining an ankle in the middle of no where.
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  14. Hunter’s half (that i”m doing with him) in a week and a half is a trail race. Not gonna lie, I’m not worried about the distance but I am a little worried about the trail part. He is excited about it though!!
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  15. I don’t do any trail running but I did go on a trail walk with some friends recently. I enjoyed it a lot and it felt like much more of a workout than a normal walk. And it is much more peaceful to be out in nature than on a city street.
    Carla recently posted..Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’My Profile

  16. I don’t do any trail running but I did go on a trail walk with some friends recently. I enjoyed it a lot and it felt like much more of a workout than a normal walk. And it is much more peaceful to be out in nature than on a city street.
    Carla recently posted..Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’My Profile

  17. I wish I could do trail running, but the terrain is just to inconsistent for me. I have shin splints that flare up when I run on uneven surfaces like trails and beaches. It sucks yet knowing how great it is to run on trails makes me want to do it!
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