Silence. Just you, your movement and your breathing. Your feet carry you along a narrow path with stones and roots. You concentrate on every step, yet you absorb your surroundings and the breathtaking view. You feel free and far away from everyday stress. That and much more is what trail running is all about.
Trail Running – a running experience, which we want to bring a little closer to you in this series. This first blog post is about what trail running actually is and why runners benefit from trail running in their training.
Trail Running Experience
The nice thing about trail running: Time is secondary. What is important is to enjoy the trails and have fun. Especially in competitions, nobody cares about any magic limits like the 3h mark in a marathon. Nobody is disappointed if he/she runs in a competition after 3:00:30. What is important is the experience on the trail! All your senses are sharpened, so the experiences outside on the trail are always special and diverse. You experience the silence in the morning, the chirping of the birds, the rushing of the mountain stream, the encounter with a fox or deer.
Where the road ends and the trail begins, what is trail running?
But where does trail running actually start? Trail running includes all runs that happen off a paved road. So if you leave the paved paths and go on new paths, you are already in the middle of trail running. At this point, it should also be noted that the feeling of trail running is very individual. For someone who lives in the big city and runs mostly on asphalt, or for a typical street runner, running on wide dirt roads might already be trail running. The rural runner, on the other hand, and even more so the passionate trail runner, does not necessarily feel that his running round on the field path and through the forest is trail running.
Different trails have different requirements
The term trail running is therefore very broadly defined and starts with runs on gravel paths, continues along narrower paths with roots, steps, larger stones, steep up and down, and ends with advanced trail running, which is off marked hiking trails and sometimes requires securing. Advanced Trail Running can already be regarded as a preliminary stage of alpinism. This term was coined by Ueli Steck. His specific endurance training led him off the beaten track, up into the mountains, where he was still running but did not yet have to climb. As different as the trails are, as different are the requirements. Here it is advisable to start according to your level and to feel your way forward step by step and only go as far as you feel comfortable and safe.
Why do runners benefit from trail running?
Here are some of the reasons why it makes sense to include this type of running in your running training.
Running in hilly and uneven terrain demands strength in the thigh, buttocks and calf muscles as well as the entire trunk muscles. The different loads up, down, flat, over stick and stone keep the whole musculoskeletal system in readiness and are therefore a good whole body workout. But beware: especially running downhill needs to be practiced and longer downhill passages can also cause sore muscles in the beginning.
Different running surfaces and profiles not only result in a change of pace, but also in a change of step length and step frequency. The demands on the running step are constantly changing, the strain on the muscles becomes more versatile. The feet are never put on in the same way and are always loaded differently. Running, especially trail running, requires coordination.
Running in hilly terrain challenges the cardiovascular system in a very specific way. The aerobic and anaerobic capacity and performance are improved, the stress tolerance is increased with varying demands on the body.
Running away from civilization in the quiet forest, through meadow landscapes, up into the mountains, away from the noise of the city, also has something meditative about it. And that’s probably why it has addictive potential. It is not surprising that trail running has gained so much popularity in recent years. Work has become more hectic, we are often online. That’s probably why the time to switch off outside in nature is something very inspirational.
Convinced? Then let’s get into trail running, adapted to your individual ideas and abilities, of course. TRAIL yourself.
Further topics, which are themed in this series: Material at trail running, technique tips, agreement on training plan and trail running, trail running competitions. Are you interested in a trail running weekend? You can find more information here.
Images from: Sandro Herrmann and Gabriel Lombriser
Blog author: Stefanie Meyer and Gabriel Lombriser.