Want to make serious gains and find those few extra percents? Go trail running. Escape to the woods and get a monster workout. Everyone knows running is the best way to cut fat, burn calories and build cardio. Everyone knows it’s the best way to ruin your knees, too.. Road running is a horrible, despicable act. It’s sadomasochism. The asphalt is unrelenting. It will ruin your body. Anyone who runs on the road is insane.
But there is an alternative.
It doesn’t matter what type of athlete you are, it doesn’t matter what your goals are, a 45 minute blast through your local singletrack is the ultimate boost. It elevates your mood, destroys negative thoughts, burns a thousand calories, increases bone density, boosts blood flow, increases lung capacity, works the hip flexors and abductors, refines balance, works fast twitch muscle fibers, clears your head, it’s easy on the skeletal system..
There’s fallen trees, rocks and logs, rain gullies, twisty turns and low hanging branches. If you run, you’re making lateral moves, cutting and weaving. It’s so much better than roads.
The packed soil is forgiving on the lower body. Trail running will cultivate better form, the foot strike will improve. Most people decide for themselves how they want to run until they develop issues, then they look for help with technique. One of the biggest issues runners face is foot strike. The correct way to run is debatable, but for this post, let’s talk about heel strike vs. forefoot strike.
It is very common for road runners to heel strike at the front of their stride. It’s easy. It feels natural. Since efficiency is key for most runners – they want to conserve energy and move as quickly as possible – they open their stride. That’s great for marathons.
What I’m talking about is short, intense interval training.
Forefoot strike is better. It recruits the calf muscle and achilles to share the impact, reducing wear and tear. It builds calf strength, thickens connective tissue in the knees and ankles and develops balance. The point of contact is much greater vs heel strike. There is a bigger area to support body weight and a planted foot won’t roll.
So you can see how forefoot strike is an important part of good form.
Forefoot strike requires short strides. That means more footsteps per mile, which means more work, more reps and more burned calories. Mile for mile, trails are better for athletes pushing their boundaries.
You don’t need water bottles or nutrition bars. 45 minutes, just you, your legs, heart and lungs. If you need something different in your routine, maybe starved for time or in need of some head therapy, try it out.
Here’s a decent resource for all things trail running. There’s hundreds of articles written by athletes, a great silo of trail running content.