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BENEFITS OF TRAIL RUNNING
By: Kimberly Miller, MS
Margaret deHesse has run every kind of race from 5Ks to ultra-marathons. At age 56, she recently took third place in the women’s overall in the Aravaipa Desert Trail Race Series – a series of 50-mile trail endurance runs. Race preparation took her through mountainous trails and along uneven paths, often logging up to 90 miles in a week. “Trail running has helped me realize an increase in my running agility, strength and endurance, as well as overcome the psychological challenges of ultra-running (distances greater than a marathon),” shares Margaret. Along with the millions of others who trail run, deHesse has reaped great benefits from incorporating trail running into her training routine.
The top three reasons to trail run include the following:
While running is known to generally increase cardiovascular health, trail running offers the additional benefits of increasing strength in your muscles, particularly in your calves, hamstrings, quads and glutes. Naturally hilly and steep grades force trail runners to strengthen muscles. Running uphill activates glutes and calves while downhill works quads and core.
Promotes Balance and Agility
Trail running requires runners to pay more attention to their surroundings. As you move over the often rocky and uneven ground, your body is forced to constantly adjust and readjust in order to remain centered. Those who have tried trail running understand the challenge of navigating the terrain, says Miki Stevens, avid runner and racer. “Mastering this type of running helps to improve my running agility.” Using all your body’s muscles to maintain balance with every step, trail running provides the added bonus of burning additional calories.
Many people avoid running because they fear the impact it will have on their joints. “Because of the uneven surfaces and elevation changes, trail running turns on more of the proprioceptive system in the body,” according to Timothy Spooner, PT, FAFS. “This effectively recruits more muscle fibers and serves to strengthen and protect joints.” Strengthening your joints can have long-term health benefits.
Trail running provides a wide range of benefits. It presents both new and seasoned runners with unique challenges and can be used to change up your regular running routine. For more information on specific trails in your area, visit TrailRunner.com. MS&F