Of late, it feels like the life we live has become so “technologicalised” (yeah I just made that word up!) that we are constantly plugged-in to the world wide web, social media or even the latest health and fitness app that promises to count our calories or steps to healthier and fitter versions of ourselves.
With that however, there is an ever-growing conversation that surrounds the topic of regaining some sort of balance by practicing things like mindfulness and meditation, having “digital detoxes” or even going “off the grid”.
So how does Trail Running coming into this?
Well, first the obvious reasons…
You get away from pounding the pavements of our concrete jungle, reconnect with nature and maybe even breathe in some fresh air!
But what if we told you that trail running offers more than just a getaway from the rat-race?
1) It can Improve your Running Technique
Running on a trail where the terrain may be anything from rocky, slippery, undulating, unstable and ever changing means that you can’t and won’t overstride. This is probably the fundamental of “Running 101” when it comes to technique.
Overstriding creates inefficiency in your performance as it increases your braking phase and reduces your elastic energy propulsion. It can also put you at risk of injury as striking your foot out in front of your centre of gravity increases ground reaction forces and creates torsion at the spine which leads to reduced stability of the trunk.
2) Running on a trail Reduces Impact and Repetitive strain
*Fast forward to point 3 if you don’t care for the nerd stuff: Or otherwise read and join the rebellion.
First lets break down some different theories of impact:
a) The simple mathematical version:
Force of Impact = Mass x Acceleration
So when a mass (you) hits a surface, it produces a force of impact, which in this case is ground reaction force. This force can be decreased if the surface that you run on has absorption qualities.
I am no engineer, but I’m fairly certain concrete has less absorption qualities than that of dirt or grass.
IF ONLY it were that simple….
b) The more complex version - “Spring-Damper-Mass Model” (1)
Fg= Ac [axb1 +cxd1ve1]…
Simply put, our bodies are made up of different body parts and these different body parts when effectively interacting together can act as a spring to diminish or absorb ground reaction forces.
c) The Clinical version- Impact Modulation (2; 3)
YOU- the person standing in front of us will have unique intrinsic factors (biomechanics and movement patterns, strength, flexibility, proprioception etc)
So…if we take into account ALL of the above variables, how we run and what we run on can all affect the force of impact on our joints
Trail running almost offers the perfect environment for these things to come into play.
Running with more variability in your movement patterns due to the changing environment and varied surfaces allows for impact modulation to occur and reduces repetitive strain.
3) Facilitate Meditation and Mindfulness
One might conjure up images of meditating whilst running as running with your eyes shut. Now that would take proprioceptive training to a whole new level wouldn’t it??
On a more serious note though, how often have you set off on a run and right away start judging yourself for not being fit enough or fast enough or even have your mind wonder off to how much further you have to go before finishing? Are you plugged in to your ipod or phone with the latest Spotify playlist where the random shuffle function is just playing everything you don’t like? Sound familiar?
The concept of mindfulness is all about being present. Participating in an activity (whatever it might be) in a non-judgemental way.
With trail running you have no choice but to be present. The changing environment calls for you to be aware of every step...your pace changes as your surrounds change. If you’re lucky enough, you’re out of reception range so why not just leave your phone behind? You don’t need that music- listen to your breathing, hey why not even listen to the birds?!
You can’t know how much further you have to run as the trail can take many turns...so just settle in for the ride!
Some tips to get you started:
· Start small and build up- your body will need time to adapt to the new challenges your stability muscles will have when running on uneven surfaces
· Do your research- don’t get lost!
· Have appropriate footwear- your 5 fingers will not cut it!
· Be present
Extra reading material:
· Read about Alex and James’s experience of competing in a 45km trail run… some insights into the physical and mental challenges of epic trail running.
1. Nigg BM, Liu W (1999) The effect of muscle stiffness and damping on simulated impact force peaks during running. Journal of biomechanics 32, 849-856.
2. Hardin EC, van den Bogert AJ, Hamill J (2004) Kinematic adaptations during running: effects of footwear, surface, and duration. Medicine and science in sports and exercise 36, 838-844.
3. Grimmer S, Ernst M, Gunther M et al. (2008) Running on uneven ground: leg adjustment to vertical steps and self-stability. The Journal of experimental biology 211, 2989-3000.
Jac is one of the best known Physio's out in the Melbourne Sports and CrossFit market. She comes from an experienced background in Sports Physiotherapy through many years working in London and Melbourne.
She has a wicked eye for Analyzing Movement and Biomechanics. Jac is also a coach at CrossFit U in West Melbourne.
Evolutio is moving to Richmond in three weeks, so appointments in the interim can be made with Jac at Kew.