Runners generally train on the road, but experts warn that results will be far superior if you run on different surfaces. Runners World recommends that runners occasionally take routes that lead off-road to trails, grass, sand, and even water, backing their recommendation with research and reports. Generally the reasons are threefold: (1) running off-road reduces the constant pounding hard-paved surfaces have on your legs and joints; (2) changing to softer surfaces strengthens and engages more muscles; and (3) a change of venue will help boost your fitness and keep you healthy. In essence:
Trails are good for developing control and balance because the terrain is uneven and unpredictable. Many trails add the benefits of running on inclines and declines.
Grass is a forgiving surface with up to 17% less pressure on your feet – a factor that can significantly lower the risk of injury. Like trails, you might find grassy hills, but be careful of hidden roots and divots.
Sand is a great surface for strengthening leg and lower body muscles. It is also aerobically challenging and can burn up to 1.6 times the calories than when running on a solid surface.
Water has tremendous rehab benefits, and because it’s about 800 times thicker than air, it is invaluable for building muscle strength during training. You just have to find suitable water to run in, where the ground under foot is firm. Alternatively immerse yourself up to your shoulders and go aqua jogging.
At Gym Source, we find that TRUE treadmills are well-designed to simulate the efficacy of running on a variety of surfaces—in particular the TRUE M50, with an orthopedic belt engineered from anti-fatigue materials and Soft Step cushioning. Learn more, or find your perfect treadmill, at Gym Source.