13 January 2012

Your feet and running the trails

Trail running as a holiday for pavement stressed runner's feet, and it might just lift your spirits.

Me (red) running the trail.
Running on trails, out in nature, away from crowded cities has been fast growing in popularity all over the world. Trail running offers a uniquely rewarding outdoor experience that gives participants an opportunity to stay fit and escape the built environment of many urban and suburban communities (1).

Lucky us here in Bangkok, since last year professionally organized, competitive trail running events are also available in Thailand (before as part of adventure races, only).

Two days ago I had the honor to be present at a press conference jointly organized by Active Management Asia (organizer) and Columbia Thailand (main sponsor) at the Paragon Sportsmall in Bangkok. Reason: the upcoming trail running event (see box below).

I can tell you, trail running is great fun! I ran the 10K in last year's event (click here for my run). If you are a runner, triathlete, or adventure racer, don't miss this opportunity! It is good for you and your general well-being (2). Read on ...

Running on natural trails is different from running on paved or artificially hardened surfaces.  Natural  trails have definite benefits. Trails are softer on your feet and due to the given unevenness of the surface potentially strengthen otherwise unused muscles in your feet and legs making you a stronger runner.

Organizers and sponsors at the press conference.
Research suggests that flat, hard, unnatural surfaces (including treadmills) are a major cause of common overuse injuries. The flatness of paved surfaces causes muscular imbalances. Over time impact forces created by landing on typical urban grounds (asphalt, concrete) can lead to nasty overuse injuries like patellar tendonitis, IT band syndrome, shin splints, back problems and many more (3). Dirt is rated the best overall surface for running on, with wooded paths and gravel coming in high. Not surprisingly, pavement and concrete are rated the lowest (4).

That does not mean that exclusively running trails is the solution to the above problems. The best approach is diversity, mixing things up. Run on different surfaces from time to time. The upcoming event is a perfect opportunity for the urban runner to experience a natural surface while improving running fitness. Go for variety: sign up and run the trails!

Besides a definite holiday for your feet, the outdoors are also lifting your spirits: 
Being outside in nature makes people feel more alive. In recent years, numerous experimental psychology studies have linked exposure to nature with increased energy and heightened sense of well-being (2).
So, what still stops you?

The Columbia Trail Masters series 2012

Kao Mai Kaew, Pattaya
January 22, 2012 at 6.00 am.

21.5km Off Road Half-Marathon
10km Trail Run
3km Fun Run/Walk for kids and others ...

For more information or registration click here.

More to come. According to the organizers, there will be at least two more similar events in Thailand this year.

More benefits of trail running and how to incorporate it into a training regimen will be discussed in follow-up articles. Stay tuned.

Disclosure: the organizers are acquaintances of the author. The author supports this event because more of these trail running events are needed here in Thailand. The author does not get any commissions or other benefits from this. He paid his registration fee just like anyone else.

(1) The Outdoor Foundation, in partnership with Montrail. Special Report on Trail Running 2010. [USA]
(2) The University of Rochester. Spending Time in Nature Makes People Feel More Alive, Study Shows. 2010-06-03.
(3) Kenneth Golden Harper. Brigham Young University. Creating a Better Environment for Exercise: Reducing Injuries, Promoting Health, and Enhancing Enjoyment by Engineering Natural Surfaces. 2005. 
(4) Frank Claps, Med, CSCS. Get a Leg Up On the Best Surfaces to Run On. Worship the Ground You Run On. Muscle and Fitness, July 2003.

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