Trail Running and its benefits

It's easy to understand why so many people take to running on the roads; it is convenient. However, there is a limit to how much your mental stimulus can take, and in my personal opinion and experience, I'd get bored of running the same road or park everyday. Read on to find out the benefits of trail running!

Escaping into the trails once in a while gives me that mental break and also the natural experience running on paved roads cannot control. Sure, Singapore has no mountains or great natural views, but the benefits of trail running are there for you to reap and experience. Here are various ways trail running benefits not only the physical, but mental, emotional and spiritual aspects of your life.

Physically

Trail surfaces are typically softer than pavement or even concrete. It takes away a lot of the stress from impact you'd normally get running on the above 2 surfaces. In addition, you'd get stronger lges from the bottom up, alongside with a sick core! Have you seen the bodies of Scott Jurey and Timothy Olson?! You know what I mean! Because trail running occurs on uneven and soft surfaces, your body requires a sense of balance which is maintained by muslce groups you don't usually utilize running on the road. As your body is constantly shiftin due to the ever changing terrain and rolling hills, energy return is close to nil, which means you spend more effort running that 5K in the trails than on the road. You breathe harder, but that's all worth it when the strength you've built trail running translate to easier racing on the road.

Furthermore, you build necessary strength and stability in your ankles! When I first started out running, I was extremely susceptible to ankle injuries everytime I had wrong step off the kerb. I was a clumsy runner and constantly rolled my ankles while running, which was a no-no. Nowadays, I readily jump and hop and even dance to avoid obstacles in the trails. Road kerbs don't faze me anymore, and I cannot be bothered when my ankle rolls because I know it is strong enough to withstand it. Many a times I got worried when my ankle rolled everytime I stepped into a porthole - but when I came out unscathed, I realized how trail running has strengthen that part of my legs.

As mentioned above, the varying terrain and soft surface forces greater muscles engagement especially stabilizing muscles in the foot and ankle. The boring, mundane, one-direciton and straight movement of road running leaves important muscles underworked - exposing you to a plethora of injuries.

Spiritually, emotionally and mentally

I love the Green Corridor, and having been blessed by having a nature reserve literally at my doorstep in Bukit Panjang, I cannot ask for more. So connected is the worl dnow that our eyes are constantly on ouyr screens; be it PCs or mobile phones. So congested are our raods now that the air we breathe in is mixed with toxic substances that is slowly killing us. So developed are our neighbourhoods now we look around and see only man-made structures.

In trail running however, you feel connected - not to your headphones or social media, but to a greater good that is nature. You become one with it and it is very grounding and serene when all you hear around you are the rustling of trees, birds chirping and the occasional wildlife moving through the thick bushes alongside with your constant panting. It is a break from the stress and commotion of everyday life when you appreciater nature and its gifts to humankind.

Mentally and emotionally, you avoid the monotny of road running. In the trails, you never know what to expect because one second you might be blazing down a hill, but the next, you have a log to climb over and wild boars to avoid! You feel like a kid in a playground all over again - and that's the sort of stimuli and entertainment that strengthens and prepares your mind for tough workouts in the grind.

Caution

Trail running doesn't come with its dangers however; as with other sports that have risks as well. There may be tree roots on the ground that can trip you if you are not careful. There can be also the dangers of wildlife crossing your path (but that is the beauty of trail running isn't it?). Whatever it is, err on the side of caution while trying trail running for the first time. 

Personally, I have never had anything happen to me on the trails as one advice I would give to runners is to ALWAYS keep your eyes on the trail 1 to 2 metres ahead of you. Additionally, it is important to look up now and then to avoid obstructing others going the other way, and potential obstacles. The plus side of doing so is that it trains you to multitask and think fast - because the next decision you make in the trail would lead to broken ankles, or a stronger you.

All in all, don't let the risk of injury intimidate you! After all, nature is beautiful in its own ways and we all learn to embrace it no matter how it changes.

Chang Teck
Chang Teck

Your average lifestyle and leisure runner seeking to learn and grow from every experience - good or bad.

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