You love running but you are not sure if you are better off when you do it in nature or in the gym on the treadmill? You are probably undecided and the awful weather lures you to go onto the treadmill because you don’t want to get wet or cold.
To be honest, running on a treadmill is better than running in nature only in case of extreme cold or in case of too high temperatures. The advantage if you run on a treadmill is that the treadmill is softer than concrete or rough terrain, so your joints will not hurt. Another advantage is that you can follow all the details of your own training – from speed, number of steps, to the slope at which you run, etc.
But the general downside is that everything else works better outside – fresh air, nature, beautiful colors, the sun that follows you… In addition, running in the gym is too convenient and due to that, people might overdo it, which can lead to Metatarsalgia, a specific pain in the foot that is tricky to heal.
To see why you should run in nature, here are a few fantastic benefits of trail running that will motivate you more to go running outside.
1) Better blood count, less stress
Engaging in some physical activity in nature has been proven to reduce stress and anxiety and positively affect our mood.
During trail running, you breathe clean, fresh mountain air, and your lungs will be very grateful that you released them of carbon monoxide, which is too much in urban areas due to numerous cars, and there are other pollutants. The same goes with the treadmill – the gym air is never too clean. Running in nature will also improve your blood count.
2) Getting out of the routine
Once things get into a routine they get boring, and so it is with running. If you always run on the same route or always on the same surface – sooner or later you will get bored. If you don’t have fun while running, in time you will give up training.
Running in the mountains allows you to try something new. On trail running, you will not happen to run on a boring route because you always have more choice, and on top of that, there are always some obstacles waiting for you. Even if you choose one route, nature has its own ways to make each passage along that route different.
3) Less sweat, more calories burned
Running outside is at least as far as general health is concerned, much better. When you run in nature, you sweat less due to the airflow and do not inhale other people’s vapors, as is the case in the gym. Also, you burn a lot more calories because running outside engages more muscles.
4) When is more energy consumed?
If you run by the river in the fall or winter, you will often be able to fight the wind, which will increase energy use, and thus burn more calories. Scientists have proven that those who run on a treadmill cannot run at full speed.
The pace at which you run is not dictated by someone, while the situation in nature is different. When you run outside, you determine when to accelerate and when to slow down, and the lane often does it on its own.
5) What happens to the tendons when you run outside?
Due to the frequent change of direction, when you run outside, you also strengthen your tendons. In nature or on the trail, you often have to go around something, jump over a bump, or turn to one side.
When you move through space and change direction, you strengthen the tendons, while on the tape you go straight and you cannot change direction. By running outside, you also follow your pace and run as you see fit, while the bar dictates your pace, so you can’t feel if you would like to run faster at some point.
6) Increase neural strength in the simplest way
A soft running surface (grass, forest road…) requires a different type of strength from the treadmill. In addition to the obvious extra physical effort, running on a soft, uneven surface requires better communication between the brain and muscles.
Everyone who runs on asphalt or treadmill is familiar with the feeling of turning on the “autopilot” after the first kilometers. There is no need to pay attention to anything but traffic (or anything at all at the gym), and the feet walk alone. Rapid running requires top-notch coordination between the brain, nervous system, and muscles, and when that communication is stunted there is no real result.
And this is where running in nature helps – very often it requires us to be awake for each new step and to adapt to the path in front of us.
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7) Natural core muscle development
The natural development of the core muscles when running in nature should not be neglected. These muscles, which serve to stabilize the spine, are extremely important for endurance when running and for proper body position. They can be strengthened with various exercises, but the best thing you can do is run in nature on a track that requires more than straight movement.
Roughness, jumping over obstacles, running uphill, then downhill… all this will activate the muscles of the torso, as well as the leg muscles that you use less when running flat.
8) Paths in nature liberate the mind
Running in a forest or natural environment brings other benefits besides physical ones. Getting away from the city, away from cars, noise (and people) can also be a spiritual experience.
Running in silence, listening to the sounds of nature and the sound of your breathing and footsteps, becoming one with nature… all this reduces stress and calms. Treat yourself to this as often as possible!
When you add and subtract everything, running in nature is definitely a better option than anything else. You dictate the pace, you burn more calories, training is much more fun because of the obstacles you encounter, and, of course, enjoy nature itself.
So put on your sneakers, get out of the house and enjoy running. We hope that this brief rundown was useful to you and that you have learned something new today on the benefits of trail running. Make sure you are staying safe in these times we are all going through and have a good one, guys!
Cover photo Credits
- Photo by Brian Erickson on Unsplash
- Photo by Luke Baum on Unsplash
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