What Kind of Runner Are You? Trails, Tracks, Treadmills and Roads…Oh, My! (Part I)

When it comes to your choice of terrain, what kind of runner are you? Do you crave the speed of the track, the solitude of a long trail run, dodging car splash on the roads, or zoing out on the treadmill?
trail runner
I was sucked in forced to watch one of the episodes of The Bachelor (that Ben guy, am I the only one who finds him a bit of a scruffy version of Dax Shepard?) where they were in Park City, UT and he was saying how he’s an ‘outdoorsy’ guy. He likes to be out in the woods chopping trees, riding horseback, fishing, and such. All I could think was, “Dang, I would be sucking wind out there on any runs.” Then some flashbacks to some particularly gnarly runs in Park City followed that.

Trails can be really beautiful and fun to run on (not at altitude for me, thank you very much, unless you’re acclimated to it and used to living there) and they have a way of making the miles pass faster than you think…until you look down at your watch and realize that thanks to that climb the miles were technically pretty slow! :P

I’ve never really lived in a place where there were ample trails that were safe to run on year round. The thing with trails is you need to be really careful because if you’re not you’ll wind up hurt…or worse. I loved the quote World Class trail runner, Michael Wardian, gave me awhile back, “I remind myself not to zone out while outside and especially on the trails where a bad footfall can mean stitches and a new tooth.”

When to Dodge the Trails:

* Really rocky.One of the benefits of trail running is that it can be a much more forgiving surface than concrete IF it’s actually soft terrain. I’ve been to some trails where I was basically running on rocks and gravel which is not going to give your legs anything in the way of cushioning. On top of that the loose gravel stuff could set you up for a nasty fall or ankle twist.

* Slip and sliding…slick trails. In Oregon there were some beautiful trails but, hello, it’s Oregon and it rains a ton which means that the trails were really slick and slippery the vast majority of the time. On top of that if there is a lot of foliage…have you tried running on a bunch of wet leaves…it is your own slip and slide.

* Drastic uphill and downhill running.
Lots of uphill running will make you sore (which can be a good thing if you’re intending some harder work to build strength) BUT so will tons of downhill running. The additional pounding and force of each footfall thanks to gravity when running downhill is tremendous, it’s really hard on your quads, knees, and joints. So be careful if your route has a lot of downhill.

* Roots, twists, cougars, darkness, and the other stuff.Since we’re discussing safety it’s important to bring up the obvious factors here…you need to practice running safety regardless of where you’re going but if you’re going solo for a trail run be sure to tell people where you’re going and how long you plan to be out. No one wants to go out for a run and end up having a search party bring them home…and that could be the happy ending of that story.

road runner

Another benefit of trails is that they usually make for easy insta-pop-and-squat spots! ;)

That said, there are a myriad of benefits to trail running…and if I had more access to some trails I’d get out there more.

* Strength. Like I said, running hills will build your strength tremendously. That extra strength will translate to speed when you then run flats.

* Happier joints and injury prevention. Like I said if you get on a softer surface you can do much in the way of reducing the pounding on your legs. This is one reason lots of elite athletes will go to place where there are miles of soft trails…soft trail miles are ‘easier’ on the body and with the amount they are putting in that adds up to a world of difference.

* More supple joints. Having to navigate twists, turns, and uneven surfaces will strengthen the smaller muscles, tendons, and ligaments around the ankles and feet. This, if done gradually and smartly, (don’t go from no trail running to all trail running all at once or your feet won’t have time to gradually get stronger, they will just get hurt!) will make your ankles and feet stronger and less prone to a sudden pull or sprain down the road if you do step in a pothole.

* The mental factor. A change of scenery is always nice and like I said, if you get going on a good trail that long run can ‘feel’ shorter.

So, what kind of runner are you…if you’re a trail-a-holic now’s your chance to voice why they’ve stolen your heart! ;) This post got really long so I’m going to break it up into a series and spread the love of the track, roads, and treadmill in the next installments…mmmmk.

1) Do you like running trails, do you get a chance to run on them a lot?

2) If you had more access to trails would you take advantage of them? If not, why?

3) What are some things you need to be careful about when running trails?

4) What are some of the benefits of hitting up the trails?

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11 thoughts on “What Kind of Runner Are You? Trails, Tracks, Treadmills and Roads…Oh, My! (Part I)

  1. I love trails!! near my house there’s this huge trail…well it’s a bike path really – that goes all the way into philadelphia, and there are mile markers and everything woot! it’s also nice and flat, so I can do lots of my runs on it….mainly to save my bones and joints haha. At school though there was this EPIC trail in the woods that was hilly and twisty and it totally kicked my butt. It was dangerous though, I sprained my ankle more than once on that trail tripping over roots haha. I always make sure never to run on the trail in the evenings after dark – sketchy things can happen lol.

    • dang girl, jealous of that MARKED trail…those are the best ones! :) umm, but yea, be careful of sketchy hours..we don’t need u to have to whip out the pepper spray!

  2. I ran trails with my girlfriends the other day and loved it! I felt like it was doing some good leg strengthening and it felt healthy to switch it up and run on a softer surface.

    But I’d never do it alone, because there was a girl who was raped on that very same trail just a few months ago while running by herself…

  3. I love trails! It might be because I don’t have frequent access to them, so when I do run them it feels really special. I don’t mind that I have to run slower or the fact that there is more hills because there are certainly benefits from that. The most important thing to me is the mental factor! It’s just so beautiful!

    • i agree, find an awesome trail and the miles can fly by! also totally with you in that ‘slow’ trail miles can correlate to harder/strength building miles of immense benefit.

  4. Pingback: The Salty and Sweet of Running: Follow Your Taste Buds and Get Both |

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