Can trail running help your road racing? By Mike Wortman

From time to time I’ll meet someone who is looking for a place to run in the area. Of course my first response is “you have to check out Annadel. It’s this great park with miles of trails and great scenery”. I am surprised when some of them look at me and respond that they are training for a road race, so they would never touch a trail because it is not what they are going to race on, and there’s no telling them different. Sometimes I just want to loudly silence their ignorance by proclaiming all of the benefits that they are missing out on by simply running on the roads. I admit that there is something to be said to doing workouts on the road or track if you’re training for a track race or road race, but there are so many reasons to jump on the trails from time to time.


Mental fatigue – Running day-in and day-out on the same roads, however convenient, may start to wear on you psychologically. It is good to get away to a new location from time to time, and you might as well mix it up somewhere with a view. Getting out somewhere new will help refresh the mind and help reduce the chance of mental staleness. Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are delicious, but do you really want to eat them for lunch every day? Same thing with running, changing routes up once in a while can keep your favorites fresher and more enjoyable.

OCD – With the invention of GPS, people are becoming so obsessed with the speed and distance of every run. On the trails, you’re up in a rolling terrain, so you can start to psychologically get away from the grind of having to hit a specific pace all the time. On the trails you can relax and enjoy the run. If you normally do 7 miles in an hour on the roads, go for an hour run on the trails at a similar effort. This will help you in your recovery; sometimes we get so wrapped up in the numbers we forget to listen to our body. If you’re not feeling great running free of pace gives you the opportunity to back the pace off and actively recover before the next workout.

Muscle stability and imbalances – Running on the roads is very predictable which is good for workouts because you can approach each one with consistency and gradually watch yourself improve. When you run on the roads every day, your body begins to get very acquainted to firing very specific muscles in a very specific sequence to help with your running efficiency. However, with some muscles firing more than others, it will cause some muscles to become proportionately stronger than others. This disproportioned state of muscle activation and strength is called an imbalance. Usually, it is the stabilizer muscles that are the ones that get neglected the most in this situation. These are the ones that keep the joints strong and stable, when these are neglected and become weaker as does the joints they stabilize. By getting on the trails, where it’s uneven, your body has to react and change with each step. This can help get those stabilizer muscles firing more and help reduce those imbalances and in turn help reduce injuries.

I would also like to mention that I want this blog to be something that you all want to read. So please feel free to leave a comment below with what you thought about the blog as well as future topics that you would like to hear about.


One thought on “Can trail running help your road racing? By Mike Wortman”

  1. I really like your comments about Muscle stability and imbalances. My ankles seem to be weak so I use trail running to strengthen all those little muscles and everything else in the lower legs that don’t get used on the roads.


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