This week we are going to discuss some of the differences between trail and road running.
Some of you may think that trail running is much harder on the body, much more raw, harsh and more technical than road running. You need to duck under branches, jump, your feet might land in strange positions, there are constant obstacles in your way, but this does not necessarily mean that it is harder on the body. The natural ground surface (soil, mud, grass) can actually be providing less stress and pounding on the joints than road running. With all the obstacles you have to be aware of during a trail run, your run is generally a slower and more concentrated run. It is important to have good balance and a strong core to support your legs as they jump and move in different directions. This constant change in terrain challenges the lower body more than a flat firm road run. The natural obstacles of trail running will give you a more effective overall body workout and help to improve your sense of balance and reaction time.
Road running is more common and generally more convenient for most people as they don’t need to drive anywhere to get out for a run. However, the road is constructed from asphalt or concrete and both these mediums are very hard and have a very high impact on the body. Road running tends to be faster paced, with more consistent forward movement with little to no obstacles. With the constant flat surface, road running doesn’t have the same effect on the lower body as trail running, however, it will still promote endurance and strength in all the major muscles. Individuals who are strict road runners sometimes spend their entire careers perfecting their stride to minimize the uneven movement that trail running encourages. However, trail running can help the road runner with activation and conditioning of the leg and core muscles that provide additional stabilization. By not conditioning other muscle groups, road runners can run the risk of overworking their main muscle groups and this can lead to injuries and poor running performance in the long run.
In effect, trail running will provide better strength training benefits for the legs and a more overall workout challenging coordination, agility, and balance more so than road running.
So whether you love the road or you love the trail, consider doing some cross training once in a while to change things up and to challenge different muscles.