Benefits of Trail Running for Road Runners

I’ve started to come to terms with the fact that life with an infant is extremely up and down. Last week was great, and while this week wasn’t particularly terrible, it was just so damn hectic. We had so many things going on as a family, and while most of them were really great, it was EXHAUSTING. Thankfully, this was a deload week for me, and I took full advantage and gave myself an extra rest day. I also used it as an opportunity to head out to Friedrich to run some trail miles on Saturday, instead of my usual run on the greenway. At this point, the majority of my running is on hard surfaces, and I think running on the roads is one of the best ways to build solid endurance. However, even for mostly road runners the trails can be really beneficial. Which is why this week, I want to give you a few reasons why even road runners should run trails every once in a while.

Benefits of Trail Running for Road Runners

  • Joints like dirt – For the most part, trails are generally softer than roads. Yes, there are exceptions, but generally the ol’ joints appreciate a run or two on softer surfaces. The break in repetitive pressure can be a very nice reprieve for the soft tissue, and allow you to keep pushing the cardio system in a lower impact form.
  • Uneven surfaces build muscles – While trails may be easier on the joints, they are often harder on the muscles. Trail running usually involves some amount of climbing, jumping, and descending, which all help runners build and engage muscles that they may not use as frequently on the roads. Even on relatively non-technical trails, the uneven, soft surfaces force the body to utilize small stabilizer muscles. All of this means that running on the roads can feel less effortful, since stronger muscles usually translates to improved running economy.
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  • Trails teach patience – Every runner tries to shoot for the infamous negative splits, but trail running FORCES a runner to learn to be patient. You just don’t move as quickly over the trails, and a lot of times you find yourself slowly grinding uphill.
  • Paces don’t matter – So while you’re learning to be just a little more patient, you’re going to have to ignore your paces. Which can be challenging for some road runners. But trust me, learning to let go of your speed/pace fixation every now and then can be sooooooo freeing. Sometimes that little mental break can help you get back on the roads feeling so much more refreshed.

Related Post: 5 Things That Made Me A Better Trail Runner

So, what made this week so crazy? Well, I had agreed to chaperone a field trip my sons class was taking to the San Antonio rodeo. I decided to take the whole day off work so that I could schedule a doctors appointment I hadn’t been able to squeeze in, and told my husband he needed to take the day off to be with Lila since we haven’t had the nanny watch her solo for more than an hour. He had no issues, but ended up working a closing on Friday evening that would end up requiring him to drop off documents before noon on Monday. Which we didn’t really think about until…..Monday morning.

So as I am getting my son ready for school and trying to get myself ready before Lila woke up, I am trying to figure out what we are going to do. We had two options, ask someone to come hang out at our house while Lila napped, or Henry would have to take Lila across town to drop off documents. Thankfully, one of my friends works remotely and was able to come hang out for an hour. Unfortunately, our house was a disaster and Lila didn’t nap quite as long as usual, which meant she woke up to a person she didn’t really know. I of course, was 45 seconds from needing an Ativan to function, but Lila seemed extremely unbothered. Henry got back to the house about 20 minutes later, and all was well.

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While I was chaperoning and chatting with a friends whose daughter is in my sons class, I realized that the time of my doctors appointment meant I would either have to pick up my son a little early and take him with me or find someone to get him from school. Because school pick up and my appointment happened to fall right at the same time as Lila’s nap. Ugh. Getting used to figuring out two kids schedules is clearly going to take some getting used to on my end. Fortunately, the friend had no problems picking up Enrique and letting him spend the afternoon with her girls. Thank God for friends who don’t mind filling in the gaps and hanging out with your kids. Monday was such a frantic mess. But we made it work, with a whole lot of help.

Tuesday was pretty standard, until I remember that Enrique had an early release scheduled for the next day. This whole mom thing requires a lot more brain cells than I was ready to really commit to. My dad actually ended up asking if he could come see the kids, since he was driving my grandmother in to San Antonio on Wednesday, and I asked if he’d want to get Enrique from school. They had a whole afternoon together, which I know Enrique loved, since he didn’t have to share any attention with his little sister, haha. They came back to the house and got to see Lila for a little bit before they left, and once again everything worked out well. But I decided to take the day off from CrossFit and running, because I was just so mentally drained from problem-solving.

Lila had a really off day with her naps on Thursday, but Henry happened to be home, which was the only reason I got any actual work done. It was super stressful for me, since I can normally count on her being a really good sleeper. She was back to great naps by Friday, and looking back, I think she was probably a little overstimulated from all of the new faces she saw throughout the week. After all of this figuring things out, I knew that taking advantage of my shorter long run and getting on the trails was exactly what I needed. So Saturday morning, I woke up early, pumped, then nursed Lila, and ran out the door to get in a few glorious miles.

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It was cold and clear and perfect as usual. So perfect that I had no hesitation going back that afternoon when my girlfriend asked if Enrique and I wanted to go for a little hike with her three kids. We moved at the pace of a 3 year old, and stopped to pick up plenty of “fossils”, and enjoyed all of the sunshine. It was a nice reminder than even the hardest weeks eventually end.

This Weeks Workouts

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Total Miles: 16.15 Miles
Total Workouts: 3
How the Run Felt

I kept all of the runs on the shorter end this week to give myself a good recovery. All of my weekday runs felt nice and easy, and I think my body really appreciated the extra rest day, to be honest. Saturday’s run was amazing. I wish I had the time and endurance right now to hit the trails for longer periods of time, but I really loved being out there by myself for an hour. I kept the pace slow, because I still don’t have the same quick response to technical stuff, but I know once I have more time to spend on the trails more consistently, it’ll come back. I do think my endurance felt great this week. None of my runs depleted me, and I didn’t feel like my form was suffering at all towards the end of my runs, which is always a great sign for me.

How the WODs Felt
It’s pretty rare that my recovery week happens to align with my boxes de-load weeks, but this was a unicorn experience. Tuesday and Thursday’s WODs both felt pretty reasonable, even though I DESPISE rowing for more than about 400M. Friday’s workout however, was nothing but insanity. Every single movement just felt like it was unending. I started on the cleans, and wasn’t at all upset to miss out on the rest of the barbell movements. Starting off a WOD with 50 wallballs is rude, to be honest.

What I’ve Been Listening To
I was catching up on The First Degree, Trapped in Treatment, and was I In A Cult for most of the week. Trapped in Treatment is so incredibly interesting, and I definitely recommend it. I also started listening to a new series called Killer Cases, which so far seems like a pretty standard true crime podcast. Which I am 100% here for. All the murder, please.

What Went Well
Chaperoning the rodeo was a pretty fun way to start the week, even though the day was a full debacle.

What Went Shitty
My brain felt like it needed a 12 hour sleep by Wednesday afternoon.

Plans to Improve Next Week
Expect the unexpected.

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