If you are weary of the stuffiness and stagnation of indoor running and the inflexible discomfort of hard pavement, you might consider trail running. As a unique and memorable exercise experience, trail running affords you an exhilarating and therapeutic outlet, allowing you to view scenery, inhale fresh air, and reconnect with nature. Consider the following benefits of trail running:

Physical Benefits

Trail running challenges both the cardiovascular and musculoskeletal systems in unique ways. Trail surfaces are riddled with rocks and depressions, making vigilance and precision a necessity, and enhancing coordination and agility. Muscles rarely utilized must adjust to the trail, working to stabilize the body against rough landings. The body compensates for uneven surfaces by running on the balls of the feet, rather than the heel, protecting the body from unnecessary jarring.

Also of benefit are the continuous ups and downs of the trail, allowing for intermittent phases of exertion and recovery. One’s cardiovascular system is employed to a significant degree on the uphill portions of the trail, with recovery following during the downhill portion. Muscles are worked in different but equally beneficial ways. Downhill gradients work muscles eccentrically, or extend them to anticipate the shock of the landing. This does cause some immediate tearing and muscle damage, but torn muscles will ultimately be stronger upon a full recovery. Uphill portions work the muscles of the legs in a concentric manner, or contract them to create force for movement.

Psychological Benefits

Urbanization and technology have revolutionized our thinking and way of life to a disturbing degree, so why not take the opportunity to “get away from it all.” Mountain trails teem with natural life, and offer a combination of solitude and atmosphere that is noticeably dissimilar to the pressure and hubbub of urban environments. Trail running not only gives the mind the normal benefits associated with running (such as the release of endorphins) but adds to them enjoyment and invigoration gleaned from being in the natural world.

Because competitive and time-obsessed running can make running a chore rather than a desire, trail running can help a runner focus on the experiences of running that are enjoyable rather than mundane. A trail offers a constant change of scenery, various surfaces and obstacles to overcome, and a nonstop challenge. Rocks, trees, and sunshine offer a therapy all their own. With the added enjoyment that comes from being in nature, the distance and duration of the run naturally become secondary considerations, and the experience of running itself will become preeminent.


  • Hydration and Nutrition – Prehydration should be routine preparation for trail running. Make sure you drink plenty of water prior to hitting the trail! Also, make sure you drink plenty of water while on the trail. Depending on the outside temperature, the body may use more water than you think.
  • Equipment – If you have weak ankles, trails can be especially unforgiving. Shoes that provide extra ankle support are a necessity.


Douglas J. Casa, PhD, ATC, FNATA, FACSM, Rebecca L. Stearns, MA, ATC, […], and Carl M. Maresh, PhD, FACSM. Influence of hydration on physiological function and performance during trail running in the heat.

Baechle, Thomas, Earle, RogerNSCA’s Essentials of Personal Training

Photo by GORE-TEX® Products 


Originally posted 2013-11-04 06:42:37.


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