Aging Along the Trail appeared in the September/October 2010 issue of American Fitness Magazine. The article is about the benefits I’ve experienced since transitioning to trail running, a small niche within the broader running community. Demographics indicated that trail running has a youthful following, however I suggest that running off-road has added advantages as the body ages.
Soft surface running is hardly a new strategy. Track coaches, triathlete trainers and clinical exercise physiologists advocate running on soft surfaces because it reduces impact and stress on the body and joints. A widely read article that appeared in a number of reputable fitness publications rated the top ten running surfaces for maintaining joints, and the top five were off-road: grass, woodland trails, earth, cinders and synthetic track.
Running on soft surfaces, along with cross-training and proper recovery time lessen the degenerative process on joints and bones. Medical advances continue to push the threshold of life expectancy, and athletes are running longer than ever. Therefore, transitioning to the trails at a younger age will reduce wear and tear and increase the likelihood of running later in life.
It’s never too early to begin building a foundation for a long and healthy running career. Converting to more forgiving surfaces is wise regardless of age and will pay dividends down the road. It is difficult to think long-term when an athlete is young and invincible, but transitioning to gentler surfaces will ease the transition to Aging Along the Trail.