When time is limited during the workweek, it’s not uncommon for most of our running to be along the same routes from home or the office. The arrival of the weekend is an opportunity to take your training off-road, providing a change of scenery and potentially making running a bit more enjoyable.
Although considered its own sport, trail-running is still just running. However, getting off-road for some training has a number of benefits that you wouldn’t otherwise get from sticking to the pavement - as physiotherapist and 2019 Tarawera Ultramarathon Champion Reece Edwards explains.
Using more muscles
“Trails are generally pretty uneven, so your body has to work a lot of different muscles in order to maintain stability. This strengthens the connective tissue around your joints – particularly ligaments and tendons in the ankle and even up the chain through your knee and hips."
Reducing the impact
"There's no doubt that running on trails is a lot easier on the body than road or pavement. Each step on a trail means slightly less impact and potentially lower muscle damage, meaning you’re likely to feel less sore than the same distance run on the road.”
Racing on the trails
Despite winning in dominant fashion, Tarawera was Edwards’ first ever trail race, and he believes this demonstrates the fact that you don’t need to be an experienced trail-runner to enjoy it and race well. Below are 3 suggestions he believes first-time trail racers should consider during their preparation.
Do your research
“There is always going to be parts of a trail race that are particularly technical and unique to that course or area. During your training it’s a good idea to get online and research the course a bit or try and talk to people who have done it before. In doing so you can prepare a little more specifically and avoid too much of a shock on race day.”
Find the right fit
“Trail and ultra runs are a bit different in that you need to ‘accessorise’ more with bottle vests or belts, but they can be pretty uncomfortable if you’re not used to them. You don’t want any avoidable irritation or chaffing, so make sure you’ve worn whatever you are going to use plenty of times before the race. I’d say the same thing for what you actually put in the bottles themselves – practice drinking/eating exactly what you are going to use on the day.”
“It's pretty easy to get caught up in thinking that to be a good trail or ultra-runner you have to run long and slow out in the mountains each day, but this isn't the case. I know that the best guys still train a lot on the roads and keep their speed, and it’s something that trail legend Matt Carpenter kept telling me when I was training in Manitou Springs. Speed and power will make you more efficient – you don’t need to be on the trails every day.
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