The reality and the absolute beauty of trail running is that anyone can do it. Come rain or shine, all you need is a solid pair of running shoes.
And with it comes a wide scope of incredible benefits that heighten well being, alleviate stress and put the fire back into your belly. First-timers, long-timers, old-timers – everyone who gets themselves up and out onto the trails will find drastic changes in the way they look, feel and function.
Want to know more? Check out our knee-deep exploration of how trail running can transform your life, as we wade through everything from escapism to getting a good night’s sleep…
1. Transform the body
One of the most rewarding aspects of trail running is a rapid boost in cardiovascular endurance. When it comes to stamina, the principle is simple. The more you run, the more enduring your body will become.
Dynamic core and leg muscle strength
From your legs to your core, each and every session promotes muscular growth.
“The very nature of trails – soft, forgiving surfaces, sometimes riddled with obstacles like roots or rocks – requires you to engage your core muscles for stability. Each step you take works to tighten and strengthen your core.” – Lisa Jhung, Men’s Fitness Magazine
Cultivating both dynamic and intrinsic muscle strength lets your body kick on when things get tough. You’ll be able to hit faster speeds, and it breeds a greater tolerance for the more gruelling courses out there.
Balance and Agility
These acute attributes will come on in leaps and bounds. Making all the difference when it comes to performance levels. For more competitive runners, balance and agility are absolutely essential in separating yourself from the field.
The terrains you’ll face on the trail are more forgiving than tarmac – meaning less strain on joints and ligaments. Yet surface impact will still help to promote healthy bone density. Stronger bones will enable you to continue the sport and remain generally more active later in life.
We all know exercise burns calories. Which in turn helps us to drop unwanted, excess weight. The good news is that according to, nutrition and metabolism expert Jana Klauer, M.D., trail running burns up to 10% more calories than road and track. And that’s where the sport sets itself apart.
The health factor
The physical advantages can run a whole lot deeper. Sure cardiovascular stamina will help you run further and faster. But it also lowers blood pressure and reduces the concentration of bad cholesterol in your body.
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2. Transform the mind
Commonly referred to as the ‘runner’s high’- the most natural psychological advantage of trail running comes in the form of an endorphin rush.
Neurotransmitters, released by the brain during and after exercise stimulate the central nervous system, eliminating stress and fatigue with a side supplement of euphoria.
Beyond this initial boost, commitment to the trail will boost your self esteem. The fresh injection of confidence – that comes from visible progress in both body image and performance – will stick with you in your wider life.
Motivation, endurance and downright persistence
Hitting the trail consistently takes motivation. Running further and faster takes mental strength. As the body becomes more enduring, so will the mind.
Over time you’ll nurture some seriously steely determination. This is an incredibly useful asset and a trait that will encourage persistence in everything you do.
Getting back to nature presents the ultimate, and much needed, escape from reality. Leave everything at home and put the usual stresses and strains to bed for a long afternoon.
The peace and tranquility of the trail will encourage quietness of mind, giving time for personal thought and reflection – that can, inturn, bring clarity to life off the trail.
Don’t worry, be happy
Get back to the Monday-Friday grind with renewed vigour and a positive outlook. After a 15 mile run through the grassy foothills, 9 hours in the office will be a breeze. In fact, a study in the Journal of Adolescent Health suggests that running can boost sleep quality, mood, and concentration during the day.
Endurance training for the brain helps with things like pain management and promotes personal fulfillment, an improved ability to cope with stress, sharper memory in later life, increased feelings of energy and a decrease in symptoms associated with depression.
“It seems that there is something about physical activity outdoors, in a natural setting, that decreases worry, anxiety, and other negative thoughts,” says Greg Bratman, lead author of a 2015 study.
3. Meet new people
There’s a real sense of community in the running world. Visit anywhere on the globe and you’ll find clubs, groups and teams dedicated to the cause. Meeting new companions along the way is all part of the journey. Whether you’re a casual or competitive runner, you’re sure to come across like-minded people out there.
The social side of trail running puts a refreshing spin on a sport, that many could be excused for categorising as a solely individual pursuit.
My experiences of camaraderie with the females that I was “competing” against only continued to grow. Comments like “We can do this together;” “You’re running strong girl, keep it up;” and “It is a gift to share miles with you,” were given and received,” writes Aliza Lapierre for Runner’s World Magazine. “All of these spoken remarks and the perceived mutual respect for one another really warmed my heart and fuelled my passion for our sport”.
4. Discover new places
Forget the monotonous grey tarmac. Leave the endless circuit track behind.
Go experience some of the most fantastically beautiful locations known to man. With trail running there are no boundaries. No limits and no restrictions – within reason of course. Fields, forests, mountains and meadows make up some of the incredible landscapes you’ll come across.
For the more audacious runners, it’s all about finding the most extreme trails, in the most extreme locations. Journalist come endurance fanatic Tobias Mews sums it all up pretty perfectly…
I spend an inordinate amount of time researching races in far flung places, especially ones that have superlatives like ‘the world’s toughest’, ‘highest’, ‘longest, ‘hottest’, or ‘coldest’ in their titles. As a rule, I get particularly excited when I hear about trails that traverse mountains, deserts, jungles, or entire countries.
Whether you’re a countryside fell runner or an all-out, globe-trotting trail warrior, the possibilities are endless. With each run you’ll want to hit new territory and conquer new places.
Become a better you
Combine the physical, psychological, social and explorational aspects of trail running, discussed in this post, and you’re on to something special.
Make no mistake, this is a sport that can quite literally transform your life. From body and mind, to memories and amazing people – you’ll soon start running out of excuses!