By: Joella Baker
If you are a trail runner or are considering becoming a trail runner, it’s always helpful to know the benefits of the sport you love. Every running surface has its advantages and drawbacks, which is why it is good to not limit yourself to only one surface. Note: If you aren’t sure where to go for a trail run, search for a trail on the USATF Website at usatf.org. You can enter your zip code and search through a database of different runs close to your location.
You can also visit any State Park in the area. Moraine State Park and McConnell’s Mills State Park both have miles of trails you can run or hike on. These are two of my favorite places to run through in Butler County. For shorter trails, check out Zelienople Community Park and North Boundary Park as well.
Here are some benefits of running or hiking on trails.
- The Scenery. One benefit of trail running is that trails keep your run interesting. If you are sick of looking at buildings or cars driving by, consider running on a trail. With all of the trees and other greenery to look at, the time will seem to go by quicker. I love to also look at the wildlife. From deer, to groundhogs, chipmunks, butterflies and birds. You never know what you might see. When I was in Jackson Hole, Wyoming several years ago, I came across three moose on my running path. It was amazing.
- Trail running strengthens your legs. Have you ever trained on a bark path and then switched to pavement or a track? It is harder to run on a trail or bark surface because it is less responsive and absorbs more shock. There are also a lot of times some tougher hills. A lot of trails have steeper hills that are more challenging than a typical road surface hill. This brings us to another benefit of trail running…
- Trail running is better for your joints. Because of the increased shock absorption of the trail surface, trail running is more forgiving on your body. Pavement and other hard surfaces do not provide any shock absorption. Even though pavement is readily accessible, you will benefit from changing your surface to a trail, at least once in a while. If you aren’t fully comfortable running trails, then consider always walking the up hills and running only the flats and down hills.
- You can get in “the zone.” When you are running through town, you can’t just focus on your running. You must constantly be aware of cars, stoplights and other obstacles. If you are running on a trail, you have the benefit of letting your mind wander without having to worry if you are going to get hit by a car or run into a pole, or if the traffic light ahead is going to turn red.
- Better air quality. If you are running next to cars or other sources of pollution, trail running will make it easier for you to breathe. The Environmental Protection Agency cautions that running on the roads alongside cars can expose you to carbon monoxide. Even if you don’t have asthma or other breathing conditions, this pollution can still make it more difficult for you to breathe and cause dizziness or headache.
In short, trail running is fun, exciting and always changing. I can run the same trail over and over again and every time it can change. More mud, less mud, leaves on the ground, branches on the ground, a tree may have fallen. So many things can change on a trail from day-to-day.
So try something new. Hit the trails and take on a new adventure this summer.