I hope that yesterday’s article about what to do if you hit your head while trail running didn’t scare you onto the roads…accidents happen no matter where you are and generally speaking my injuries have been less serious on the trails than on the roads, and that includes this past weekend’s tumble.

Trail running is a lot of fun and offers quite a few benefits over road running, so I put together this video to highlight some of the differences:

Here is the link mentioned in the video: http://r2w.us/82
_DSC0212Here’s a transcript of the video:

Today I’d like to talk about a few of the advantages that trail running has over road running. The biggest thing for me is I just find trail running a lot more fun. You’ll find that that’s a common theme among a lot of trail runners is that they enjoy being out there on the trail a lot more than they do on the roads.

Now one of the other big advantages is that you take a lot less pounding on a trail run than you would on a road run of similar distance. The reason for that is that you’re running on generally softer surfaces. You don’t have the exact same density of surface that you’re running on the whole time and it changes up a lot.

It’s a lot less jarring to be on the trails, than it tends to be when you’re running solely on the roads. Recovery becomes a lot easier because you’re not beating yourself up quite as much. When you get home from your run you may have had to work a little bit harder, but you’re going to feel a lot better and a lot quicker than you would after doing a long run on the roads.

Another advantage of the constantly changing terrain is that you don’t get as many over use injuries. When you’re on the road, you tend to make the same repetitive motion over and over again. You kind of just dial in to whatever your running form is.

If you don’t have the perfect running form, that’s going to be problematic because any problems that you do have are just going to be exacerbated by just constantly repeating them for thousands of steps over the course of your run.

_DSC0200When you’re running on trails, every step is potentially going to be different because you have to step around roots or rocks and you tend to have better running form in general because you need to take shorter steps just to be able to navigate some of the trails you might be running on.

A consequence of that is that trail running is more fun because you’re a lot more in tune with what you’re doing, rather than just being able to zone out and listen to your iPod as you cruise on down the road.

Now one of the other big advantages of being on the trail is that there’s a lot less traffic than what you find on the roads. I hate running with traffic. You have the fumes and the pollution.

If there’s no cars, it’s a lot more difficult to get hit by a car. I’ve been hit before and I’m not a big fan of that. Especially when you get into winter type conditions, when the roads are icy and the snow tends to encroach on the shoulder then cars are just whizzing by a couple of feet away from you.

It’s a lot nicer to be on the trails where don’t have to worry about getting hit. Not only do you have less to worry about when you’re running in terms of being hit by traffic, but the air is just so much cleaner because you don’t have so many fumes and you have all of the trees and other plant life around you.

Now from a purely physical standpoint, you can build a lot more strength a lot easier on trails because you have to work a little bit harder. There’s much less energy return for each step that you take. When you run on the road and you take a step, a lot of the energy from each one of your strides gets retuned and you actually don’t have to work as hard to keep running.

When you’re on dirt or on grass, a lot of that energy just gets absorbed by the ground so you wind up having to work harder to run the same distance which will be build a lot more strength, as well as working different muscles groups.

_DSC0065As I’ve mentioned before, you do take different steps with the way that your foot lands and this causes you to use different muscle groups. You work your core a lot more than you tend to on the roads.

On top of that, trails tend to have more hills than your average road will, and the hills aren’t constrained by what a car can navigate. You build more strength from the actual ascent and descent as you’re running. This of course is going to be trail or road dependent, but I’ve found that it tends to be a little bit hillier on the trail runs. Again, that just adds to the fun factor.

You’ll notice a constant theme, that it’s just a lot more fun to run on trails. There are different risks and dangers to running on trails than on the road, but there’s a lot more benefits. So if you don’t have any trail running in your current training schedule, I highly recommend that you add some trail running in and see how that works out for you.

If you’d like to have a few tips on how to migrate from the trails to the roads, just check out this article on how a road runner can begin to integrate trails into their running.

Run safe!