The mention of trail running to the uninitiated can sometimes conjure up images of mud, sweat and tears. And whilst, to some degree, all three may prove true, the benefits of heading off-road far outweigh these minor hurdles. Here, Run the Wild lead runner, Mark Hadaway (you may remember his great motivation talk at last year’s Christmas party or have seen him coaching at Everyone Active) shares his thoughts on why you should blaze a trail and head off-road.
Trail running quite simply means running off-road (or pavement). It can encapsulate anything from running around a grassy field, to plodding along a towpath, exploring local woodlands or tackling mountainous terrain. Quite simply, it’s about reconnecting with the great outdoors and providing a bit of escapism from today’s busy world.
Despite the fear that trail running can often incite in people – the reasons for which we will touch upon later – it genuinely is an incredible way to get fit both physically and mentally.
Physically trail running offers fantastic training affects – more muscles are activated; agility, coordination, and balance are challenged; and the aerobic system is required to consistently adapt relative to the surrounding terrain. The variation in gait, foot strike and stride length also ensure less pressure on individual joints – reducing the chances of repetitive injuries often associated with ‘pounding the streets’.
Alongside the physical, numerous studies purport the mental health benefits of trail running too. Research has shown nature based physical activity can lower anxiety and reduce stress while boosting mental well-being. It can also help alleviate the symptoms of depression.
So, is trail running for you? Yes, is the simple answer – it is absolutely for everyone.
Perception is everything
But now for the ‘less positive’ news and the bit that takes us back to often cynical view of trail running – yes, it can be muddy, and it can be ‘hard work’. However, perception is everything and viewing things a little differently can soon flip this on its head.
The beauty of trail running is you get to reawakening your inner-child – you can splash through puddles; you can run downhills as fast as your legs will carry you; and you can jump over obstacles (all with practice).
What’s more, you can leave behind the usual pressures we typically heap upon ourselves when we run – distance, pace and times pale into insignificance. You run when you want to run, you walk when it makes sense to walk. I would go as far as to suggest regularly leaving the stopwatch at home and just immersing yourself in your surroundings – our Run the Wild strapline of ‘Exploring places, not running races’ tells you everything you need to know.
Shock to the system
There is no denying trail running can be a ‘shock’ to the system but the benefits far outweigh the hurdles. It can be dirty work; it can feel tough; and it does require practice but all the mud, sweat and tears are worth it when you’re immersed in nature, putting one foot in front of the other on your favourite trail. There really is no better feeling. Oh, and there are so many well marked paths around Berkhamsted there really is no worry about getting lost (if in doubt there’s always Google Maps – or even a REAL paper map – remember them??).
About Run the Wild:
Since 2013, Run the Wild has been dedicated to delivering incredible trail running adventures in the UK and European Alps. Trail running is the ultimate pursuit of freedom, of feeling alive and it’s something we are passionate about. To find out more visit: Run The Wild – The UK and Europe’s premier running holiday company