This article was written by Airrosti’s Dr. Heidi Berger, DC. As an avid trail runner, she discusses the benefits of getting off the pavement and how to avoid pain while trail running.

As runners continue to log numerous miles on the road, trail running is starting to gain popularity. With the arrival of cooler weather, many runners are embracing the outdoor autumn breeze against staying in the gym. Both experienced and novice runners can switch up their routine and challenge themselves by taking their course off the beaten path. Getting away from the sidewalk or treadmill and adding varied terrain has its benefits, but it also forces you to focus on new muscle groups. Below are some of the benefits associated with trail running, coupled with exercises to help sail smoothly down these roads less traveled.

Benefits of Trail Running

By trading in the treadmill or flat pavement for a trail, you completely transform your scenery. Being in nature, instead of the city or neighborhood, is a natural relaxer. The calming atmosphere gives you a break from urban life and provides a tranquil running environment.

Depending on what trail you choose, you can challenge yourself with hills and uneven surfaces. These slight changes in terrain force your body to use smaller muscle groups to accommodate the different ground. Not only will your ankles be put to work to stay balanced, but you will also engage your core to keep you moving forward on these rough trails.

While getting used to a bumpy surface may slow down your paces, trail running allows you to slow down and focus on your breathing patterns. Trade in the car fumes and city smells for some fresh oxygen and connect with nature along the way. This concentration on breathing can help you build your endurance and run longer.

Exercises for Trail Running

To prepare yourself for trail running and increase your endurance, practice these exercises for core strength and ankle stability. Incorporating these exercises will keep your body strong and supported while reducing your risk of injury.

Core Strength

  1. Get on your hands and knees (four-point position) with your knees hip-width apart and hands shoulder-width apart.
  2. Your back is in a neutral position (slightly arched) and your chin must be tucked in.
  3. Activate your lower abdominals by bringing your belly button inward and activating your pelvic floor muscles.
  4. Maintain steady abdominal breathing while you simultaneously lift one leg backward and the opposite arm overhead, keeping your back in neutral position.
  5. Return to the initial position and repeat with the other leg and arm.
  • Planks

    Planks are great for strengthening the core because your upper and lower abdominals are simultaneously working to maintain balance. It’s important to do this at least two or three times a week to build up your strength.

  1. Get in the pushup position, but lay your forearms on the ground instead of your hands.
  2. Squeeze your glutes and tighten your core.
  3. Keep your spine and neck in a neutral, straight position.
  4. Try to maintain a straight form from head to toe.
  5. Hold that position for 30 seconds.

Ankle Stability

  1. Start by standing with your legs hip-width apart and feet pointing forward.
  2. Place one foot back with only one big toe touching the ground.
    – For an advanced movement, lift the back leg off the ground entirely so you’re only supported by your front leg.
  3. Bend at the waist while trying to keep your knee and back relatively straight.
  4. Keeping your shin vertical, bend down as deep as you can with good form.
    – Be mindful not to let your knee collapse inward.
  5. Return to the standing position by squeezing your glutes.
  6. Complete two sets of ten reps.
  • Single Leg Stance

    Balance is key for strong ankles and will help when running on uneven trails. Practice balancing on one leg to build up your ankle stability and help keep you steady on uneven ground.

  1. Stand straight with your feet close together and lift one leg off of the floor.
  2. Hold for 30 seconds.
  3. Lower your leg and lift the opposite leg and repeat.
  4. If additional stability is needed, stand near a wall or a chair to hold onto for support.

Run Pain Free

Although trail running can be a refreshing change of pace from your usual routine, the added challenge of running on a different terrain could take your body some time to get used to. If aches and pains are keeping you away from the trails, schedule an appointment with Airrosti . Our providers specialize in accurately finding and treating the root cause of your pain to keep you running pain free.

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