10 ways trail running will make you fitter

20 April 2017 by
First published: 19 March 2016

While some runners are happy to hit the tarmac, there are a growing number turning to the trails. So what’s the reason why? Trail running allows the runner to focus on building up their technique, but it’s also a great excuse for an adventure. From muddy tracks to rollercoaster sets of hills, you have the ability to explore the great outdoors while improving your body and mind. And if you’re not convinced, here are 10 ways trail running will make you fitter.

1. The trails go right to the core

Half the fun of trail running is the uneven and muddy terrain, and while it may not be obvious at first, you have to use those tummy muscles to keep you upright. Put simply, it’s kind of like doing a tree pose in yoga over and over again – you have to really engage your core to prevent you from toppling over. Trail running uses the same principles, and boy do you feel it the next day.

2. And it’s an upper body workout

You may think trail running is all in the legs, but there are always certain obstacles in your way that rely on your upper body strength, not to mention carrying around your kit in a rucksack. Your arms are also important to drive you up those hills and act as stabilisers when on rocky ground. After a decent trail run, you’ll definitely feel the difference in your upper body.

3. Plus, it works your lower limbs

While you may not run as fast as on a flat road, hitting the trails is good in terms of working muscles that are often ignored. You still use your hamstrings, calf muscles and quads, but also push your lower limbs, especially around your lower calves, ankles and the knees. All those smaller muscles and ligaments that are key to your stability are flexed and worked to make you strong and tough enough for anything that life throws at you.

4. Your agility improves

Trail running is all about the challenge. Not only will you be faced with nature’s obstacles, but you’ll also find the weather is sometimes against you. Wind, rain and mud are all a brilliant test of your agility. You constantly have to change the way you run, as well as leap over the occasional fence or stile. This makes you stronger and improves what sports specialists like to call ‘proprioception’ ease.

5. You learn about pace

Trail running is a completely different game to road running. From steep trails to climb, to throwing yourself down hills, there’s no way of being able to keep your pace the same throughout. And it’s great because you’re forced to work at different speeds. So when it comes to that flat road race, you’ll be more aware of how fast you can go.

6. And self-sufficiency

Again the trails are a great test in race management. Some races have checkpoints while others are completely self-sufficient – meaning it’s up to you to monitor your hydration and nutrition. This raises your awareness and preps you for all sorts of situations. You become mentally stronger and more adept at managing how you race and what you need to race.

7. You become more fearless

Remember when you were a child and wouldn’t think twice about jumping off a ledge, well trail running kicks off the same instincts inside. It’s challenging but the more you run trails, the more fearless you become. So anything flat like a road race will become a breeze.

8. Your concentration improves

Trail running is tricky business. Let’s just say, one false move and it is game over, so you have to focus on your foot placements, the rocky terrain and where to shift your weight to ensure you stay upright. This strengthens and improves your concentration while you’re out running and helps in any running situation.

9. You fall back in love with running

If you’re not in love with running already, you soon will be after hitting the trails. It’s an amazing and exhilarating experience to run through some the most beautiful countryside in the UK and overseas. You learn to appreciate that it’s not always about speed. Sometimes just being in the great outdoors, battling against the elements can be as rewarding as a PB and yet humbling. The trails make you a more rounded runner and will have you hooked.

10. And there’s a friendly community

Trail running is one of those events that attracts people from various backgrounds. Some are more experienced while others may be completely new the sport. But they’re generally a friendly bunch of runners who are willing to share their experiences with others. If you’re willing to listen to those in- the-know, you’ll become a stronger, fitter and better runner for it.