Benefits of trail running

Lately, I have heard a great deal about the healing powers of nature. I have even heard stories of doctors prescribing nature walks for individuals suffering from depression. I am not a doctor, but can attest to how trail running helps me both mentally and physically.

1: Overall easier on the body. When I was in school, I ran track and as I got older, I often took to the roads. I always had issues with shin splints and felt like my body was taking a beating when I ran. It was not until my mid 30s when a friend asked me to go for a hike that I discovered trails. The impact of running on the trails is not as hard as hitting the pavement. Because trails are rocky and uneven, your body benefits from increased core strength, balance, and stronger ankles. You get a full body workout with the terrain changes and hills you are bound to come upon. I feel like the chances of injury are lower when trail running versus road running, but again, I am no doctor!

2: Sounds of nature. When I run the road, I always put on the headphones, cranked up the music, and hit the streets. Running the trails, I leave the music at home. Instead of hearing traffic, I enjoy hearing the sounds of nature. Sometimes that means I hear nothing. I soak up all the silence I can get. Have you ever stopped and realized how much noise goes on around you? All day long. Whether I am at work where the phones are ringing, people are asking questions, or in the car where my kids are talking; there is rarely a moment of silence. For me, the trails allow me the time to be quiet and really think.

3: Shift in focus. When road running, you must watch for cars, people, stop signs, etc. On the trails, your focus shifts to rocks and tree limbs. You can allow yourself to focus on the trail while falling deep into the trance of the woods. I can’t explain how this feels, you just know when you hit it. You’re in it. You are flying down the side of a mountain, watching about 15 feet ahead for any trail obstructions, breathing the fresh air in and out, and your body is full of energy. It’s a feeling I never experienced on the road due to being interrupted by the focus of trying to stay aware.

4: Less harassment. I am not sure how often men get harassed on runs, but I can say as women, it happens almost every time I head out on a road run, alone. It does not matter the time of day or the area I choose to run. I remember getting a quick run in over my lunch break, down town, along our riverbank. Two men chased me until I got off the dike, and ran up the main street back to my office. I just do not understand why people can’t leave other people alone. Sorry, that is a whole other topic for a separate post. My experience on the trails is different. I find most people are there for the same reasons and just want to run and be alone. I have not met too many people willing to follow someone to the top of a mountain just to harass them. This is not to say the trail is danger free; my personal experience has been less harassment on the trails, and for me that is a huge benefit! It makes for an overall better run.

5: Spiritual connection. I try to get my long runs in over the weekend. This often times means Sunday morning. For me, I am happy to spend my time connecting spiritually on the top of a mountain. I love getting to the top, looking out over the view, and giving thanks for the ability to do what I can and appreciate the body with which I have been blessed. I am not a top finisher in trail races, but I do not do it for that. I do it because it feels good to reconnect with nature and myself in those moments. To remember to take a minute and be grateful for the life I get to live. I do it because sometimes when I am in the midst of climbing that mountain, the struggle is comparable to situations I am struggling to work through in other areas of my life. Just getting to the top gives me the strength to continue pushing through in my daily life. It reminds me: I am worthy. I am strong. I am not alone.

Weekly Running Log – Feb.12

This post may contain affiliate links. Read the full disclosure here.

Running totals: I missed my long run this weekend. Sometimes life happens and we move on…..

Weekly mileage: 15.7

Weekly elevation:  489ft

Year to date mileage: 100

Year to date elevation: 12,047 ft

My favorite products for trail running are the Nathan VaporAiress Race Vest, Cockatoo found HERE, and my all time go to trail shoe Salomon Speedcross 3 found HERE. Additional 255 ft in elevation from setting the treadmill to incline. I use Strava to track my running; you can’t add elevation to treadmill runs. How is your training going?

Weekly Running Log – Feb. 5th

This post may contain affiliate links. Read the full disclosure here.

Running totals: Goal this week was recovery!

Weekly mileage: 5.3

Weekly elevation: 496 ft

Year to date mileage: 84

Year to date elevation: 11,558 ft

My favorite products for trail running are the Nathan VaporAiress Race Vest, Cockatoo found HERE, and my all time go to trail shoe Salomon Speedcross 3 found HERE. How is your training going? Do you compare where you are today to where you were a year ago?

Tips for Trail Running in Freezing Temps

I don’t know about you, but I love being able to throw on shorts and a t-shirt and run out the door for nice long sunny run. BUT, living in central Pennsylvania that is not an option all year round. We are blessed with living through all four seasons and must adjust our attire for each season. Saturday temps were in the 20s but with the extremely cold winds, it felt like 10 degrees. Heading to the mountains in 10 degrees with cold winds is not always something that makes me jump for joy. Lucky for me the sun was shining and that is rare these days, so I had to go get myself some vitamin D. Below are some tips I use when running in freezing temperatures.

1: Cover your noggin. It is important to make sure you have a hat that covers your ears in extreme cold. Some people go so far as to wear a baklava, but for me, I found it gets wet from my breathing and bothers me more than wearing a nice wool hat that covers my ears and forehead. You will lose heat from your head and find it difficult to stay warm if you don’t have some type of hat.

2: Layer your tops. I always start with an under layer made of a wicking material. I then wear a long sleeve, half zip shirt and in extreme cold, I add a windproof / waterproof jacket. For longer runs, I follow the 20 degree warmer rule where you dress as if it is 20 degrees warmer than the actual temp. Long runs would be defined as anything longer than an hour. Your body warms up quick, and you don’t want to be over dressed or too wet from sweat if the temps are below 20 degrees.

3: Winter running tights / layer legs too. I have a pair of warm winter running pants that are made of fleece on the inside. It has to be COLD outside for me to get these babies out because they are WARM and feel bulky. Saturday I was going out for a quick 5 miles, and given the low temp, I opted to wear them. On Sunday the weather shifted to almost 30 degrees with snow showers, but heavy winds remained. In that case, I wore my under layer made of wicking material and a thin pair of windproof running pants on top.

4: Take care of your feet. I have favorite running socks and trail shoes. Be sure your shoes are made for the terrain you are planning to run. Trails are often snow and/or ice covered this time of year. I always wear micro-spikes over my trail shoes for added grip and safety. For me, it is normal to find stream crossings flooded too; wet feet in freezing temps happen often. For shorter runs (under an hour) it’s not as much of a problem as longer runs. When planning to be out longer than an hour, it is smart to carry a pair of dry socks in your pack just in case you need to switch them out.

5: Don’t forget the gloves. Again, another important area to keep covered in freezing temps is your hands. It makes a huge difference in how you feel when you are wear gloves versus not. You can always take them off if you need; better safe than sorry.

6: Hydrate and fuel. What you need to carry with you depends on how long you plan to be out. Saturday, I headed out for a quick 5 miles. I chose not to carry water or gels. BUT, I know the trails well and I went out and back 2.5 miles. I did not venture too far from the car nor did I get off the main trail. You should always carry food and water on any trail run when you are not familiar with the trails or are venturing off main trails where you could find yourself alone or lost. (This is more for safety than need in this case.) If I don’t carry water with me, I always make sure to have a full bottle in the car. For a run longer than an hour, I carry a pack with water, gels, granola bars, and ginger chews.

7: Take a friend. We always have more fun when we share a trail run with someone. I am blessed that my handsome husband also enjoys trail running, so we make a date of it. I have a sister who loves to take advantage of trail therapy. When they can’t join me, I am lucky enough to have two dogs (one pup in training) and they absolutely love the trails. This tip is more for motivation than it is for weather.

I hope this list helps you get up and get on those trails regardless of the temps. Please share any of your tips below in the comments.

Frozen Snot – Race Recap

Saturday, the handsome husband and I headed out to our local mountains for a race called the Frozen Snot. It was 13.5 miles with over 5,000 ft of elevation gain. The race started and ended with 1.5 miles of road running, so the climbing was all during the middle 10.5 miles. It had to be the hardest trail race I’ve ever done. We finished it, thankfully! But I can’t give place stats because 43 people didn’t complete the second leg of the race (they did 8.3 miles and went to the finish line) and didn’t tell the RD so their times are included in the overall race stats.

The weather was great; 20 degrees with some wind. In this area you never know what to expect on a day in January. Right now it’s snowing and school has been canceled. The mountains were ice covered at the top and water / mud covered at the bottom. Micro-spokes were a requirement to run the race, but I would have opted for them anyway. It was worth having them. The downhills were technical. I took a set of poles to assist, but found it easier to use the ropes they provided. I’ve only tried my poles one other time and wasn’t 100% comfortable with them. There was one aid station at mile 7.5, right before you start the second leg of the race. They provided plenty of warm tea, hot sandwiches, and the traditional bananas, sweets, and goodies. They also had an amazing fire going which felt great after coming down the windy cold mountain side.

The last leg of the race was a boulder field, named The Beast. And that it was! I imagined myself playing twister to get up that mountain, on all fours! The race camera guy (M. McNeil) was hiding amongst the rocks, snapping away. Here I am trying to decide my next move.

Overall, it was a good day to be outside exploring trails. I was spent by the end, but that’s what it’s all about! What about you? Did you race or explore anywhere fun this weekend?