I was inspired to write this post based off a recent instagram post by Elliott Hulse, someone in the fitness industry that motivates me to be the strongest version of myself. I love his message in this video because it is far too common to see athletes feel that only the most expensive and flashy exercise equipment and workout regimens are the best. This is false.
If you are pain free, one of the best workouts you can do to increase your speed, conditioning and overall athleticism is trail running. Trail running is a complete mind-body workout. The best part about it is that no membership fees are required. Why is trail running so effective?
1. Variety of movements - Unlike road running, which is characterized by an almost identical foot strike throughout the entire workout, trail running requires improvisations and adaptations to your footstrike to accommodate the trail. This is very important to become the best athlete we can be because we are not a linear species. We live in a 3-dimensional 360 degree world. Therefore, we need to strengthen and test our muscle working in all different kind of planes of motion to unlock our true potential. If we simply pound the pavement we will not reach our full potential.
2. Working different energy systems - Trail running is the swiss army knife workout for increasing your athleticism because you have the opportunity to work out your body’s various energy systems. You will be flying down and enjoying the ride downhill, while constantly shifting to best traverse the trail. Then you will be sprinting as you come across a steep incline. Once your reach the top, you will take time to enjoy the glorious view. In such a scenario, you are not only working your aerobic energy system, but also your anaerobic system while getting an interval session in.
This is in stark contrast to the monotonous rhythm of running on concrete. You can most definitely mimic this effect on the road, but I do not find it as enjoyable as simply adapting to nature.
3. Biophiia - This may seem like a new age term but it refers to the hypothesis about the instinctive bond between human beings and living systems. We intuitively understand that being in nature is one of the most potent forms of medicine to calm the mind and soothe the soul. However, it has not been until fairly recently where science has been able to substantiate these claims:
Any elite athlete can attest to how draining and stressful the grind of practices, competitions, and travel can be. It is essential to find ways to recover and distress to be at your best. Simply spending time in nature is a powerful tool to positively impact your physiology.
4. Development of Mindfulness - When you are running on a trail without your absolute focus, things can go wrong very quickly. Developing this state of mind is something that will not only make you better at your sport, but everything else you do in your life.
The advancements in knowledge about athletic training and the technology to support athletes in being the best they can be is truly remarkable. However, sometimes it can lead athletes astray because you lose sight of the fundamentals when you are being distracted by all the bells and whistles of the newest and ‘best’ piece of equipment.
If you can’t sustain it, it’s not worth it.
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3.Park BJ, Tsunetsugu Y, Kasetani T, Kagawa T, Miyazaki Y. The physiological effects of Shinrin-yoku (taking in the forest atmosphere or forest bathing): evidence from field experiments in 24 forests across Japan. Environmental Health and Preventive Medicine. 2010 Jan;15(1):18–26.