Ever Tried Trail Running?

Ever Tried Trail Running?

We’ve all got them. Those friends. The fit ones. They’re the ones who share those awe inspiring images showing incredible landscapes with a motivational quote plastered across it obscuring the view. The same ones share those infuriating status updates and tweets about how far they’ve run and how quickly they did it. Before exiling these friends to the unenviable unfriend list, perhaps it’s a good idea to find out what they’re on about.

Trail running is “a sport which consists of running and hiking trails and differs from road running and track running in that it generally takes place on hiking trails, often in mountainous terrain, where there can be much larger ascents and descents”. After reading that, it’s easy for Joe Soap to have visions of labouring up massive hills and tumbling down steep cliffs.

Trail running is fast gaining popularity and raved about by enthusiasts, probably because it takes you into the calm of nature – a good respite from the stresses of the work week, of being stuck in traffic and surrounded by the bright lights and frenetic activity of the noisy, bustling city.

It combines the addictive and meditative aspects of road running with the undeniable psychological boost one gets from being in nature. And of course it is a far cry from the type of running one does on a treadmill, within the four walls of your home or local gym. Trail running offers a new frontier, a new kind of running experience.

And it is not just to experience the beauty of nature, trail running is also recommended for improving ones overall fitness. Videos about the benefits of physical exercise abound. When you’re physically fit, you enjoy:

  • Better weight control. If you’ve recently caught a glimpse of an unflattering tummy roll, or had the scale lie to your face, then you’re in the majority. Running is exceptionally good at burning calories which is necessary to control and maintain weight.
  • Good health. Studies have shown a clear link between fitness and the control and eradication of diseases like depression, stroke, diabetes, etc.
  • Good mood. A fitter you is a happier you. Remember those smug status updates and tweets? They seem happy, right? Mean, yes, but happy nonetheless.
  • High energy. Your body is capable of doing more, so you don’t get tired as quickly. Soon, you’ll be racing the elevator to your floor at work and finishing chores in record time.
  • Good sleep. When you exercise, it makes you tired. You’ll sleep like a log.
  • Good sex. A fitness regime has positive benefits on the way you feel and the way you look. Both play a big part in our confidence levels and will have a positive impact on your sex life.
  • Fun. Fitness is fun. Trail running is fun, ask any enthusiast.

Now before you throw on your takkies and take to the veld, there are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Keep your eyes open. It's important to be aware of where your feet fall, because of the range of surfaces and obstacles one encounters in the bush.
  • Take it easy. Secondly, the varied terrain requires that you sacrifice some of the speed you might be used to on the road. Experienced trail runners will attest to the fact that you’ll soon find your stride and embrace the more moderate pace.
  • Suit up. While your average road running shoes will do fine as you explore this new running experience, once the bug has bitten, you might want to invest in a good pair of trail takkies to further improve your experience.
  • No need to overdo it. As for specialist trail clothing, most argue that it's not necessary - your road running gear will suffice, though you might want to take clothing that has seen its share of wearing since you will likely be passing wayward branches intent on snagging your fancy clothing!
  • Stretch well. Dynamic stretches before a run and static stretches after.
  • Stay hydrated. Don't forget your water and a calorie-dense snack.
  • Join a club. There are trail runners in every city, who will be only too happy to introduce you to your neck of the woods. Check out http://www.runnersguide.co.za/Clubs/. Until you’re familiar with the routes, always try to run with someone. 

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