A brisk run through nature is one of the best ways to clear your head. When you're tackling the craggy rocks and unseen terrain of the wilderness, you're practicing mindfulness - enabling you to enjoy and appreciate the moment and your surroundings. If you're new to a trail, the anticipation of what's to come keeps you excited, and commands you to stay engaged and focused.
So many of us (including myself) live near trails that we have yet to travel. Unless you're feeling especially daring, why not explore nature from your own backyard before venturing further? After recently running a trail right by my house, I felt not only more grounded, but at ease with a deeper appreciation for my surroundings. While I intentionally disconnected from technology - leaving the iPhone at home, and nature as my map - I found myself reconnected to the world around me and myself. And that - well, that felt really good.
The (Mental & Physical) Benefits:
- Running through nature will create space in your mind to make you better at other tasks you have to perform - if you can tackle that tough, craggy trail, you can tackle anything!
- Spending time outside induces a greater sense of appreciation for your surroundings. While we know that happiness is a state of mind, an eye-opening 2013 TedGlobal Talk from Brother David Steindl-Rast, a Benedictine monk, explores the concept that gratitude creates happiness - not the other way around.
- Less sadness, anger & fatigue - researchers in the UK found that people that exercised in natural (as opposed to synthetic settings) experienced a reduction in these feelings
- The inconsistent terrain forces your body to adapt and employ more muscles at the same time - creating a more significant calorie burn!
- Unless you're looking for solitude, find a trail running buddy. Exploring with a friend, family member or partner can encourage you to go further.
- Leave the phone at home - unless you want to snap some pics! Looking at pictures of nature can increase serotonin in your brain - making you feel calm and relaxed. Journalist and author of the 2005 book, Last Child in the Woods, Richard Louv points to research showing that people feel restored after looking at images of nature. (Looking at pictures after will also instill a sense of pride in what you've accomplished, reminding you that you can tackle any challenge you set your mind - and body - to.)
- Check the weather before you go! If you have an iPhone, the weather app is great. If not, weather.gov is another good and accurate resource.
- Make sure you have the right shoes. I stick to Nike because they never fail me in quality, and my favorite women's sneakers for trail running are pictured below. There are, however, less expensive sneaker options designed for trail running - like these cute, pink ones. If you don't have or want to invest in these, just make sure you have comfortable sneakers that support your arches and ankles to reduce your chances of injury!
Want to find your perfect trail?
Check out trailrunproject.com, a crowd-sourced site featuring the most popular trails in your area and afar. This site also hosts a directory of trail run races.
Prefer apps? AllTrails for Android allows you to explore over 50,000 trails in North America and features reviewers from fellow travelers.
If you have an iPhone, download rungo (pictured below.) This awesome app allows you to explore new running routes worldwide, with turn-by-turn voice directions. Now, I know I said to ditch the phone, but I'll make a personal exception for this one! Chart your own course with the in-app route creator, and ensure you go the distance safely thanks to its audio and visual directions. This app is exceptionally useful if you're exploring a new trail.
Have a special trail running story you'd like to share? Don't hesitate to send me an email (ATTN: Christina) at firstname.lastname@example.org. As always, thank you for sharing your stories and passion for a clean and healthy lifestyle. You all inspire me daily!