This past Monday a coworker of ours, Steve, came in to work with stories of his weekend adventure. He had gone for a run. Wow! I know, usually this wouldn't be considered very adventurous as most of us run regularly and it is widely thought of as a fairly mundane activity. Sure, road running in the big city can be exciting with wild drivers to evade, curbs to hurdle, and potholes to dodge, but what Steve did was “trail running”.

This wildly popular take on the classic exercise has the running world in a frenzy. Take backcountry hiking and cross it with classic track running and you have a new sport full of hills, trees, rocks, streams, and mother nature. So what is it about the narrow trails and uneven ground that makes rail running so compelling and, in many people's minds, beneficial to your health? This does not mean you should give up road/track running, just supplement some of your sessions with the trail for maximum efficiency. Here are a few reasons that you need to pick up a pair of trail running shoes and hit the road, err dirt.

It is fun and freeing:

This is probably the most simple yet most important reason to trail run. It offers a type of freedom and independence that running in the city simply cannot match. To be with mother nature and, for one brief moment, conquer it. That is what the hype is all about. It’s also just really fun and almost childlike to run through streams and riverbeds, hopping from rock to rock, feelings the leaves gently brush your body as you make your way down that narrow trail. If you are hitting a wall in your normal routine or even if you are a beginner who needs something extra for motivation, try trail running. I promise, you will be taken back to your youthful exuberance when you start down that path.

It is safer:

Injuries are a runner’s worst nightmare, it keeps you off your feet and cooped up feeling your hard work slipping away. I know what you’re thinking, “How can running on uneven footing and rocks be safer than the flat pavement”. The simply fact of the matter is that dirt is softer than pavement or concrete and softer ground means less injuries. The constant pounding on the hard city streets leads to foot issues, shin splints, and knee problems over time. Also, softer ground builds more strength in the stabilizing muscles used to run. This extra strength and conditioning will ultimately lead to a healthier stride and more ability to withstand injury going forward.

It makes you a more technically sound runner:

As seen in some recent studies and articles the uneven terrain and unpredictable layout leads to short quick steps and a more forefoot dominant landing. This is precisely the stride that runners should strive for in all types of running as it allows for less energy consumption and a better acceleration rate. Basically, trail running teaches you to be a better runner on the road as well. That is why a lot of very good road runners have started to incorporate trail running into their normal routine whether it's in the off-season or leading up to race day.

Peace of mind:

Being away from the city can give you a break from everyday life. Even if the trail is on your little local hill surrounded by the hustle and bustle of the city, for that run you will feel disconnected. Sure you can get into “the zone” while road running, but it’s different out there in nature. There are no cars honking, emails to be read, and in beneath the trees you can let go of that tension. It’s also nice knowing that those same trees help filter out the pollution while producing fresh air and if you start to think about it you will notice how easy it is to breath.