For myself I truly believe that they both compliment each other, but since starting off road running, I now find it very difficult to go back to running on the concrete. For myself it is more of a mental battle and I find running on the road very mentally challenging and boring.
Everyone runs for different reasons, I run for the enjoyment and the experience and I like to keep my runs interesting, but challenging at the same time. My running improved out of site when I started running on trails and made me so much stronger and I think a big part of this, was because I was enjoying it.
One of the biggest benefits of running on trails is that the softer surfaces will reduce the impact on your body. Another benefit to running trails is they will slow you down. Most of you already know, take your easy days easy, and your hard days hard, but the more people I coach and the more I observe, the more I see runners continuing to push a pace that isn’t necessary on their easy recovery days, and they aren’t allowing their body the full benefit of an active recovery.
Active recovery is an integral part of any training program for any distance. It aids in muscle memory, building your aerobic system, muscle endurance and obviously, recovery from a hard workout. Running an easy-intermediate technical trail, forces you to slow down and take your time, putting a lighter training load on your system.
Trails have the benefit of changing your running gait, getting you up on your toes and shortening your stride through a technical section. It uses muscles you may not necessarily use when you are running on the road and really engages your core as well. If you constantly run on the road you will find you always use the same muscles, which then causes injury. Having a mix of both trail and road, is a perfect combination.
Aside from the training benefits that trail running brings, I like to think that it’s what keeps me running day in and day out. It’s the quiet conditions of the soft winding trail through the woods where I can look inside and be alone with my thoughts while at the same time look outward and be surrounded by beauty in the land. Many runners find they can use the time on the trail as a mental reset during the day, coming back from a run fresh and ready.
I am so thankful for the people I have met through trail running and the places it has allowed me to see and if I always ran on the road I would never have had some of the experiences I have had. From the Simpson desert, Malaysia, Saipan and list could go on, I have many amazing opportunities and experiences.
If you enjoy the training, then it becomes much easier. And for me, the opportunity to run trails is what helps me get out the door some days.
I hope everyone continues to enjoy their running and if you have gone into the bush and ran some trails, go and give it a go and you may be pleasantly surprised how amazing it is.