Trail Running for your Mind and Body
How can trail running benefit you?
A quiet trail. Only the sound of your feet hitting the dirt and a trickling brook running near by. The sound of the wind rustling through the trees. You focus on your breathing and the trail that disappears and meanders in the woods ahead of you. Each step is quick but measured avoiding roots and rocks, obstacles that stand in the way of your sweat drenched adventure. Sometimes you fly along winding single track, the woods a blur. Other times your heart is pumping hard as you climb hills and mountains aiming to find the perfect viewpoint as your reward.
This is trail running. These are some of the reasons why you need to find your nearest trail and take a break from the pavement. If you are a new runner, this is where you will fall in love with running. The trails will call you to sneak away into a wooded retreat to find solitude and balance.
There are so many benefits to getting away and being in the woods. A report on NPR recently tells about the benefits of “Forest Bathing and how it can be used to reduce stress. Forest bathing which began in Japan (orshinrin-yoku) is said to, “help boost immunity and mood and help reduce stress.” In my opinion trail running is much like the practice of forest bathing. Often times when I head out on the trails I have a general direction in mind but no particular plan other than to get out and enjoy breathing in the forest air and to feel my body dancing along the wooded pathways. The destination and the mileage aren’t often important but the way you feel when you are finished is cleansing and can bring a sense of calm and peace.
Why you should try trail running!
Find out what these seasoned women trail runners have to say about their love of trail running:
Leslie O’Dell, a successful New England Masters runner who runs for Central Mass Striders and Six03 Endurance says,
“My love for trail running is pretty basic. It gets me outside in the peace and quiet and almost always leads me to beautiful places.” More from Leslie can be found on her blog Mountain Llama.
“I love everything about trail running – the space to push limits [physically and mentally], the beauty of the places I get to see by foot, and the people [who feel just like an extension of family].
Trail running is much more than running with your legs. It’s about running with heart. It takes hard work, sacrifice and plenty of grit – and, the steps and miles[tones] along the way certainly deserve celebration. I started running in my post college days, and while I hated it at first, I was up for the challenge. The day I finally stepped off the road and on to the trail, my perspective on running shifted. The intentional movement, one foot in front of the other, was actually enjoyable. Even when it was hard, it was enjoyable. The trails became a place of escape from day-to-day routine and stresses, a place of control and a place where I could be me, unapologetically. Today, trail running is part of life [nothing more] – it’s reminded me to keep moving forward, it’s connected me with a community that makes life a little sweeter, and it gives a constant reminder to have a strong faith in self. I get out there and do what I do because I am lucky that I can – and, while some days the training plan and long race miles may seem daunting, life would be a bit incomplete without the hard that comes along with the trails. The miles and mountains change you…and, that’s a good thing.”
“When I run on trails, I feel like a kid again. Not because it feels so much better on my joints than the pavement (because it definitely does that!) but because it takes me back to when I was growing up. My family would always go for a walk in the woods at least once a week. For my brother’s and I, a walk usually turned into a run, as we would happily explore what was on the trails just ahead of my parents. Trail running takes me back to those times. Plus, the extra dirt and mud that comes from running on trails makes me feel extra bad ass.
Natalie, the creator of @runningismyrecess on Instagram gets a different view of the trails from all of us East Coasters. I envy the spectacular ocean vistas that she sees on her California trail runs! Nat mixes it up between trails and roads as she trains for half marathons and marathons. Her words about trail running will make you want to find the closest trail right now,
“Trail running is glorious. It takes running to whole other level of entangling yourself off the beaten path, discovering new tidbits of nature and hearing only the sound of yourself breathing.
I don’t think about pace or a specific workout, it’s just a concentration of feeling my feet crunch on dirt, climbing a big hill, spying a peek of the ocean or finding a new wildflower.
Runners that haven’t experienced trail running – treat yourself to the experience and I promise you won’t look back.”
Kristina Folcik is no stranger to trail running. You can regularly find her running in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. She is an experienced trail runner and trail running guide for Red Line Guiding and can often be found standing at the top of the podium at races. Kristina says,
“Trail running brings me to the most beautiful places and beautiful people. There is nothing more fulfilling than spending a few hours out in the woods dancing with rocks, seeing wildlife in their natural habitat and simply being one with nature.”
Read more about Kristina’s trail running on her blog Danger Girl.
Ready to head out on the trails yet?
Have we convinced you yet? For me my running and racing has been the most successful because I allow myself to spend times running in places that I love. I don’t limit myself to the road when I am training for marathons. Sometimes I mix it up with some beautiful trail running which always gives me a good reset and gets my head back into training. I feel lucky to have endless networks of trails to run on that are nearby to be such as the Kingdom Trails in Vermont and the gorgeous mountain trails in New Hampshire’s White Mountains. I bet if you start looking and talking to local runners you will find a great trail near you to check out!