by Ray Barrios, RRCA Running Coach, Ultramarathoner and Triathlete

It is always a challenge to persuade runners to train on trails if they run on asphalt and concrete, even if it is merely suggested to incorporate trail running into his/her training regimen and not to replace one activity with the other.

Some of the typical reasons range from:

  • "I only do road races"
  • "Trails are too difficult"
  • "I don’t like running slow"
  • "I want to avoid injury"

Trail running offers many benefits over road running that will significantly improve a runner's endurance, strength and mental well-being.

Running on trails does not require a devout road runner to give up or abstain from training or racing on the road.

Running on trails at an easy or slower pace makes for great base-training.  Speed on the trails will come in time.

Trail running will help strengthen joints and muscles with the uneven and hilly terrains.  A strong core and upper body are essential to keeping better balance and maximizing the trail workout.

Hitting the trails occasionally will give worn-down and tired legs a much needed break from the constant pounding of asphalt and concrete, which is the cause of many running injuries.

Most of the injuries on trails can be easily avoided by using trail running shoes with adequate support and protection.  Using the arms for maneuvering down hills will avoid tripping and falling.  Learning to fall will also lessen the risk of serious injury.

In trail running you get to bring out the explorer in you. You should still map out or get to know a trail before heading out to reduce the chance of getting lost or stressing out about where you might end up.

Leave the headphones and unnecessary gear behind so that you are not distracted and lose sight on the ground below.  At the same time, you are free to enjoy the natural beauty of the trail and relax your mind. Southern California has hundreds of miles of trails and the winter is a great time to enjoy the sights and sounds.