Why Trail Running is a Workout in Itself

Woman running in a forest | Featured image for Why Trail Running is a Workout in Itself blog for Pivotal Motion Physiotherapy.

Why Trail Running is a Workout in Itself

How do you know if someone is a trail runner? Don’t worry, they’ll tell you. Trail runners are a breed of their own, they spend very long periods of time out on the trails, more time than any road runner would spend on the road. There is a noticeable difference between running on the trails and running on the road. Any runner who has done both can tell you that trail running works you harder than normal road running. There are multiple reasons for this. Below we will discuss why it is a workout in itself.

Difference between the road and the trail

Trail runners are at an advantage to road runners, they’re able to spend more time on the trails for a few reasons. The trail is a lot softer than the road, this decreases the stress placed through the body during the contact phase of running. The decreased load through the body can allow trail runners to run for longer. This also allows trail runners to get out and explore more. The beauty of the trails and the joy of stepping outside of the city/suburbs helps us relax more too. Trail running is highly recommended for this reason.

Furthermore, the uneven surface of the trails works our stabilization muscles more. Often times a runner’s stabilization muscles will be under worked from running on flat, even surfaces for long periods of time. Getting off road and hitting the trails can act as a “gym” workout in itself by working these muscles. The trails are full of steep and often undulating hills. As we all know, running up hills is a fantastic way to strengthen our legs and improve cardiorespiratory fitness. So just by going for a jog on the trails we are working more muscles, working our muscles harder, and improving our fitness. It’s hard to see why we haven’t hit the trails sooner! If you’re someone who has a history of ankle sprains, reach out to us today for a few physio for sprained ankle tips.

Many road runners will do trail runs as part of strength workouts. Getting stronger on the trails will help translate to more ability to run fast on the road. Trail running gives your legs a big boost by taking you over uneven surfaces and hills; you will be thankful for it at the end of a race. Mo Farah, a quadruple Olympic gold medalist does 90% of his running off-road.  Not bad for someone who only races on road or the track!

Relax and unwindActive Female running in a forrest

Since the trails are full of hills and uneven surfaces we’re going to run slower than normal. This can be a good thing. Often times runners are too set on running at certain paces and hitting time goals. When you hit the trail there’s no need to aim for that time goal, the hills are going to slow you down and that’s good. Spending some time on the trail will allow you to focus on other things such as any areas of your technique that you’re trying to fix. If you’re coming back from an injury or noticed a little niggle popping up it might help to trail run. The decreased shock absorption required to run here will reduce the stress placed through your body. For this reason, many elite runners will do their easy runs on the trails.

Trail running is a very effective way to boost fitness, improve strength, and unwind. Therefore, it’s highly recommended that all runners experiment with trail running. Luckily Brisbane has a very large number of trails to explore. Get out there today and reap the rewards. If you have any more questions, would like a running plan, or are injured and need  help from a physiotherapist or an exercise physiologist, don’t hesitate to contact us. Call 07 3352 5116 or book online now.


Updated 21/07/2023

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