Amp up your fitness with trail running

NV Body April May '16Off Road

Amp up your overall fitness with trail running.

By Kim Miller and Shannon Dougherty

Photos by Stephanie Heymann Photography

Trail running is an excellent way to nurture one’s physical and mental fitness abilities. Getting off the roads and venturing through nature can transform both the body and the mind. For those new to trail running, start with shorter runs and don’t be afraid to combine running, walking, and hiking to build stamina. In order to build endurance and skills, select trails that are uneven, but less rocky.

Below are three reasons to incorporate trail running into your fitness routine.

Good for Your Mind

Trail running in nature helps one detach from surroundings and connect with the outdoors. It can provide a spiritual connection for many and help to clear the mind, reduce anxiety, and increase clarity. A recent study conducted by Stanford researchers, published in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences set out to determine how physical activity in nature impacts mental wellness and rumination (i.e., patterns of negative thoughts). Their findings indicated that not only did study control group participants, who were asked to take a 90-minute walk in nature, self-report a decrease in rumination, but MRI scans of their brains also showed decreased neural activity in an area of the brain associated with depression and mental illness.

Builds Strength

While running is often associated with increased cardiovascular health, trail running offers the additional benefit of increasing strength in your muscles; most noticeably in your calves, hamstrings, quads, and glutes. Naturally hilly and steep grades force trail runners to strengthen muscles. Running uphill activates glutes and calves, while downhill works quads and core.

Reduces Injury

It might seem that the fear of tripping on a rock could increase injury, but in actuality trail running can help reduce injury due to its uneven terrain. Many running programs can become quite repetitive, and because running injuries are often repetitive stress injuries, trail running can condition the body differently, making one less susceptible to injury. Turns out running winding, uneven terrain encourages different body movements ensuring that things don’t become too routine.

Looking for a trail running group? Mark Cosmas, owner of Irun running store, organizes trails runs on a regular basis. Visit their store at 4730 E. Indian School Rd. in Phoenix, or visit their website at for details.

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