Sign up for our newsletter

Get the latest updates, news and product offers via email

  • Lorem ipsum

Trail Running: A Panacea for All

20 Apr 2015
by Abby Mowinski

By Abby Mowinski

The clearest way into
the Universe is through a forest wilderness. –John Muir

As a mom of two young boys and a veterinarian, time is hands-down
the most valuable commodity in my life – and isn’t that the limiting factor for
all of us?  So, if we, as time-crunched
athletes, want to maximize our training and not sacrifice too much sleep, we
have to learn to train smarter and train better in the time we have available.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I am not looking for the easy way
out, nor am I trying to skimp on my training, I am just looking for ways to
maximize my gains in the most efficient way possible.  For me, trail running has been an excellent
means to that end. I know I am not the first one to laud the benefits of
running trail, but I think for the triathlete specifically, the benefits are

At its simplest, trail running combines all the different
running workouts into one nice, little, incredibly fun package.  By no means am I suggesting that running
trail can replace track workouts or dedicated hill workouts, but in my life,
trail accomplishes these goals without the need to think about it.  And when I don’t need to plan out workouts in
great detail or use technology to drive my workouts, it is infinitely more
enjoyable for me.

“What?  Trail as a cure-all for my running
needs?  No way – I would totally get
 Whenever I extol the virtues
of hitting the trail, the most common concern I hear is the fear of injury.
While acute injuries like ankle sprains and skinned knees are certainly a
possibilty (learning to fall safely is encouraged), running the same,
repetitive route on the road or on the treadmill yields chronic overuse
injuries, which, in my book, are far harder to recover from.  

A run in the woods readily combines speedwork, climbs,
tempo, and interval training – plus whatever mileage your goal may be – in a
single effort.  Due to the varied
terrain, obstacles, steep hills and rollers the trail offers, the off-road
runner is constantly changing her pace over different stretches…fartlek,
anyone?  Additionally, hill work is built
right into your run, and if you choose to focus on pushing those
hills…congratulations, you’ve done your hill repeats for the week.  The roots and rocks also force the runner to
practice a faster turnover and cadence, which is a great skill to have coming
off the bike into the run.

The variability of terrain also yields improved strength…and
not just in your legs.  Running on an
uneven surface recruits muscles you may not otherwise employ when running on
smooth road surfaces. You can’t have a dominant leg or a dominant muscle group
– trail develops equal musculature through the hips, quads, calves, and ankles.
Additionally, instead of the repetitive percussive forces sustained from
constant pounding on the pavement (or worse, sidewalk concrete), trails offers
a more forgiving surface, resulting in less force of impact on the joints. Varied
terrain also requires one to maintain balance and control, which relies on and develops core strength, which we all
know is integral to all three disciplines. Improved strength and stability equals
less injury. I think we can all agree that is a win-win.

Not to be overlooked are the emotional, psychological, and
spiritual benefits to running outside in nature. Nothing beats a run in the
woods after a rain, when the green of the leaves is intensified in contrast to
the dark wet of the bark – when all you hear is the crunch of the earth under
your feet and rustling of the birds in the trees.  I immediately start to decompress when I hit
the trail; I savor the undisturbed quiet and solitude – two rarities in my

I never run with music or with headphones; I like to listen
to the steady rhythm of my breathing and feel my heart beating in my
chest.  Additionally, I find this helps
substantially in learning to run by feel – using my breathing as a gauge of
effort and intensity. It’s also liberating to run without the expectation of
maintaining a specific pace or time goal. Because each trail is a unique course
and offers more obstacles than one would encounter on the road, you can measure
your effort by your intensity not a number, which is a great mental break on

So if you’re eager to try something new, break out of your neighborhood
run routine, and get a great workout in the process, I encourage you to lace up
and hit the trail.  Dedicated trail shoes
are a nice addition, but planning your hydration, nutrition, and a safety plan
(including letting someone know where you are if you go solo) are
essential.  The greater Atlanta area is
blessed with an abundance of trails and a number of local trail races to feed
your competitve spirit. So what are you waiting for?  Join me where the air is cleaner…just don’t
talk to me, because I want my peace and quiet!

Trail running has helped Abby

Be the first to comment...
Leave a comment
By using our website, you agree to the use of cookies. These cookies help us understand how customers arrive at and use our site and help us make improvements. Hide this messageMore on cookies »