In general, people love routine, and we see this through many patterns on a daily basis. Sometimes, though, change is good, and that’s what I want to write about.
Often, trail runners say how much they hate the road or track because it hurts their knees, and conversely road runners often say that they will never run on the trail again because they nearly broke an ankle the last time they tried. I want to challenge both groups to try it again. I have personally seen how adding diversity to marathon training has kept me healthier, made me faster, and helped me have more fun with running and racing.
Let’s address the trail runner: If the trail runner can spend one to two days per week running on the road and on the track doing interval workouts, she will without a doubt see faster times in races. Taking a step away from the trail allows that runner to pick up the pace a little and work on turnover. Typically, runners have their best form when running fast. They get off their heels and lean forward and, therefore, running fast can help remind runners (if not gently reinforce) how to run with more efficient form.
Now take a look at the marathoner or 10K runner: The last time he tried trail running, he got lost or rolled an ankle and consequently, decided never to go back. The trail is a runner’s friend, not the enemy. Taking one to two days per week off the road or track and running on the trail will add more diversity to training, strengthen stability muscles, and during the hot summer months can even decrease the rate of burnout because the trails are shaded.
During my college days running at the University of Texas, I ran on the Barton Creek greenbelt every Wednesday. The run always went by faster. I loved running through the woods and across the spring-fed creek. Jumping over rocks and logs and twisting through the trail helped keep me healthy and provided a break from my usual routine.
This is why I have my Trail Roots class meet on the track most Tuesday evenings. We do speed interval workouts, and frequently, there’s excitement from runners when someone says, “I haven’t run this fast since high school.” On Saturday mornings, we do our long run on the trail. I mean a rocky, wooded, hilly trail, not the groomed, crushed granite Roy and Ann Butler Trail around Lady Bird Lake.
The combination of road and trail is perfect and keeps the training balanced, yet dynamic.