Tireless trail-blazers and staunch pavement pounders alike can appreciate the benefits of trail running. Whether you’re training for your next ultra or your first road 5K, soft-surface running should be incorporated into your training plan. In fact, about 2/3 of your weekly mileage should be run on soft surfaces, which include grass, treadmills, synthetic tracks and woodland trails.
In the simplest of terms, trail running is easier on the body. The uneven terrain serves to condition knees and ankles, making them less prone to injury. Though joints cannot be strengthened per se, the muscles surrounding them can be, thus helping to absorb impact.
Jumping off rocks, skipping over roots and gliding over the various features of terra firma can also aid in increasing endurance and strengthening additional leg muscles. On a typical road run, breathing rates will likely remain steady unless the athlete is incorporating intervals. However, with trail-running, the athlete may be forced to slow down due to unexpected course changes or obstacles, then speed back up, thus challenging his or her cardiovascular system.