"Trail Running: Off the Beaten Path"|
by Mindy Solkin
In my many years of running, I have always been defined as a "road runner", training and racing on the roads, with supplemental speed workouts on the track. But another form of running has emerged, joining both the sport of running with the great outdoors..."Trail Running".
Trail running is a great compliment to your road training. It conditions many muscles and connective tissues that aren't used on the roads. Because of the diagonal movements, your inner thighs (adductors) and your outer thighs (abductors and hip flexors) will get lateral conditioning that will also aid you if you play court sports. You will also use your abdominal muscles and lower back muscles more, which will enable you to pick your legs up higher. A stable torso, strong ankles, good posture and steady balance are all keys to moving safely across uneven terrain. You'll learn to adjust your foot plant when going over stones and twigs. By shortening your stride length, as you do during uphill running, and by bending your knees more when you land, you'll reduce the impact on your joints. Imagine that you are running up and down stairs (tip-toeing) where the stair heights and depths are unequal and the steps are loose.
Keep in mind that your pace will most likely be slower than your road pace at the same heart rate intensity. Don't worry about the pace and just run by how you are feeling. This is called RPE or Rating of Perceived Exertion. On a scale of one to 10, choose the number that best describes how you feel. In other words, if you feel that you are running at 80% of your maximum, your RPE number would be eight. You can then adjust your pace according to how you feel.
In addition to the physical conditioning that trail running brings, your mental focus and other senses will also improve. Your peripheral vision and foot-eye coordination will benefit. By moving fluidly in concert with the landscape, you'll enjoy the change of scenery and quiet time away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Your lungs will benefit, too, by a cooler and better air quality. It is important to remember that because you must pay closer attention to where you are going and stepping, headphones should not be worn.
If you are going to hit the trails somewhat frequently, you may want to invest in trail running shoes. These shoes give greater support and stability than road running shoes because of the special outsole tread patterns that increase traction. And they are more durable and sometimes waterproof to accommodate running through hilly, wet and muddy terrain.
The Running Center's Runditioning classes are a great way to condition your body for trail running. The combination of yoga (for stretching), balance drills (for core strength) and running drills (for better form) will prepare you for the trails. The July session begins July 8th. Check it out at
Mindy Solkin is the Owner and Head Coach of The Running CenterTM. She is
certified by USA Track & Field (USATF) as a Level III Running Coach (the
highest level) and by the American Council on Exercise (ACE) as a personal
Known as "Coach Mindy" to her runners, she has coached thousands of people
over the past ten years, helping them to achieve their goals on the open
roads and the winding trail, whether it is running their first mile or
pursuing their personal best in the marathon.
Mindy was the creator of the Leukemia-Lymphoma Society's Team In Training
marathon program in New York City and served as its Head Coach from 1994
through 2001. From 1995 through 2002 training over 3,000 runners to run marathons in cities around the world, Mindy was the Head Coach at Reebok
Sports Club/NY. She is also the creator of the Polar Heart Bra® and has been
a PowerBar® Team Elite athlete since 1994. She can be reached at www.TheRunningCenter.com.