Trail Running and XC for Fitness.
So with the start of the Cross Country (XC) season a matter of weeks away, thoughts turn to preparations for this. For many, the mere mention of XC brings back memories from school of running across a field on a damp November morning wishing to be anywhere else. All that is distant past now though and we’re better than that.
Many will be familiar with the term “trail running” but perhaps less so with XC, so it can be explained like this: Trail running and XC are very closely linked, with XC being a shorter, race oriented variant of trail running. Both have a raft of benefits in terms of fitness compared to road, or treadmill based running. Additionally, you don’t need to run hundreds of miles of trails to reap the benefits of running off-road. Hitting the trail works your muscles, tendons and ligaments differently than running on the road or treadmill. And running trails that head up hill or down…you’re not only building your cardiovascular engine, but strengthening quads, glutes, calves, and core, too.
You’re also improving your balance and proprioception (your body’s ability to know where it is in space) when trail running—a benefit that carries over into other sports including regular road running also.
As with any training program, easing into trail running is important. If you’re just starting out, seek a smooth trail and work your way up to more “technical” (aka: tricky) terrain. Your muscles, joints and ligaments will gradually and safely become stronger than ever. This can translate into fewer running related injuries over time as you become stronger. Some of the advantages of trail/XC are: Core: Trails are not flat and even and contain rocks and roots, rabbit holes etc and as you pass over all these your core works overtime to keep you balanced and upright. That’s a workout you may not have even known you were getting. Quads: the sometimes-steep downhill sections of a trail run will strengthen your quads. Glutes: Both running up-hill and the lateral movement from negotiating the plethora of roots and stones will activate and strengthen the glutes. Calves: up-hill sections, even mild undulations will force your calves to work harder. Connective Tissue: Due to the nature of trail running, navigating obstacles and uneaven surfaces constantly, this has a strengthening affect on connective tissue around ankles and knees. This is good news for injury prevention.
So in the next few weeks LFR will be taking part, as we always do, in the Three Counties XC league. A series of XC races than take place from October to January around the area neighbouring Leighton Buzzard. Not only is this usually a lot of fun, but as you can appreciate its also good for you! Training for XC is usually done on trails, and we (LFR) will be hosting some preparatory XC/Trail sessions ahead of the events to get you into it.
Apart from working your entire body and getting you supremely fit over the course of October to January, you also add in a level of injury-resilience too! Just in time for the start of marathon training. So, ask yourself this….what’s not to like?