When it comes to running, many people rack up the majority of their miles on a treadmill or asphalt. Have you ever considered taking your passion for running off the road and onto the trail? This article will provide an overview of why more and more people are ditching the sidewalk and hitting the dirt. Trail running can work both your body and mind. Imagine reaping all the benefits of running, while also putting less stress on your body. Strapping on a pair of trail shoes also offers multiple mental perks. Let's examine this all in more detail.

Physical Benefits

Running is a great workout, but it can also put a lot of physical stress on the body. A trail run is commonly across dirt and rocks, with the occasional exposure to water and other terrain. With every stride, your body is connecting with Mother Nature instead of pavement, tracks, or treadmills. Since the terrain is not consistent and perfectly predictable, your entire frame is making minute, constant adjustments on the trail.

This continuous fine-tuning improves your proprioception: the body’s ability to transmit a sense of position, analyze that information and react (consciously or unconsciously) to the stimulation with the proper movement. What does this mean? In real time you’re developing improved balance and overall awareness of your surroundings.

Trail Running 1Credit: Wikimedia Commons

In addition, trail running results in less overuse injuries. As the name implies, these are injuries caused by repetitive movements and excessive stress to a joint or muscle. Since a trail’s terrain is constantly changing, you can reduce the chance of getting an overuse injury. Individuals that have problems with their running form may find this especially beneficial. The shock-absorbing trail is much more forgiving than most man-made surfaces.

Mental Benefits

A trail run can also improve the mind in numerous ways. The beauty and solitude of a trail allows you to become one with nature. Whether you’re fifty yards or five miles from civilization, the sheer act of “going off the grid” can reap mental benefits. It's amazing how freeing it can feel to take the route less traveled.

Ditch the ear buds and absorb Mother Nature with all of your senses. Trail running allows you to enjoy the beauty of the mountains, hills, and fields you may not have seen before. Instead of the stationary hum of a treadmill or the traversing of city streets, take in your area’s organic surroundings. You never know what foliage and wildlife you may see. Every outing is a new adventure.

Trail Running 2Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Let the great outdoors both stimulate and relax your mind. Many trail runners come up with their best ideas while putting mileage on their trail shoes. When you allow your brain to move freely and enjoy our amazing world, you may suddenly think of that perfect solution to a professional or personal challenge. The fresh trail air and beautiful scenery also reduces stress, further allowing you to truly be in the moment. 


Trail Running 3Credit: Morguefile

An article about trail running wouldn’t be complete without a few words on safety and security. Always be mindful of your surroundings. Consult and carry a map when traversing any new routes. In fact, many experienced trail runners make it a practice to carry amap every time, regardless of how often they’ve run a specific trail.

Bring more than enough food and water with you. While some people trail run as minimalists with only a water bottle, others enjoy wearing a pack that contains snacks, first-aid, and other provisions. The added weight of a small hiking pack can also add a strength dynamic to your workout. Naturally, assess your environment and determine what you need to bring to be safe. Here is a great article on general running safety by a fellow InfoBarrel author.

Final Thoughts

In closing, trail running offers all the benefits of running plus many more. The freedom from taking the route less traveled can be an amazing feeling. I hope I’ve made you realize just how beneficial a trail run can be to your body and your mind. Plus, it’s a great way you can support your area parks and forests. In some cases, you may have to pay a few dollars for admission or parking, but it should be viewed as an investment in both your wellness and your community.