Both road and off road/trail running have their own challenges and benefits. So what’s best for your workout?
Let’s look into the pros and cons of each.
Road and inner city running tends to be more predictable than the trails. You do have to keep an eye out for potholes, cars and other pedestrians but generally you can get into your stride and let the miles fly by. Running on a firm surface such as a road or path allows your body to get into a steady pattern and you tend to land in a very similar way each step, which reduces the risk of injuries associated with awkward missteps.
Exhaust fumes and noise pollution can be a bit unpleasant, so taking to the paved trails the coast is a more pleasant option than running on a generic city road.
True trail running gives you the opportunity to get out into the fresh air, away from the hustle and bustle of the city to enjoy nature at its best. There can be a few more obstacles on the trail though. You’ll need to be on the lookout for tree roots, water hazards, sudden unexpected changes in gradient and wildlife.
All of those challenges come in addition to the task of staying on the actual track and keeping your bearings. It’s easy to get caught up in the scenery, the fresh air and the adventure of what you might discover around the next corner, or at the top of the next hill.
Night trail runs take it to a whole new level of fun. Make sure your head torch is charged, with spare batteries at the ready. The balance challenges of trail running are magnified in the dark and it’s amazing how quickly trees can appear in the middle of the trail, from out of nowhere. Still, there’s really something special about running at night (and you always feel as though you’re travelling at really high speeds).
On an uneven path or trail, you are constantly varying your landing position and stride to adapt to the terrain. Some research suggests that the constantly variable landing positions involved with trail running is good for your body, and helps to reduce your risk of a repetitive load injury. However, on the flipside, there can be an increase in the risk of traumatic injury (like an ankle sprain) due to the uneven surface.
It really depends on personal preference and what you’re hoping to achieve from your run. The majority of elite runners will combine both trail and road running into their annual training and racing plan. That’s because you develop different skills from running on different surfaces, so a mixed program is a great way to continually challenge your body.