Running can be a difficult activity, what with the aches, pains, and mental and physical challenges associated with pushing your body to perform. However, there's a reason why runners stick with it - they also enjoy the freedom of watching the miles go by, the pride in having a strong and able body, and the boost of feel-good endorphins and energy that last long after a run.
It's a love/hate relationship, as most runners will attest. However, there are ways to reduce some of the difficulties associated with running, such as the aches and boredom that are part and parcel of a regular running regimen. Did you know that the surface flying by beneath your feet could play a key role in the relative ease or difficulty of your favorite fitness activity?
On the mental side, running on different types of terrain can change up your routine, adding new challenges to keep your mind engaged and switching up the scenery to alleviate boredom. Naturally, different surfaces will also impact the physical aspects of running.
Although you might prefer trail running for the visual appeal, hitting the streets near your home for the purposes of convenience, or utilizing well-lit gym facilities for reasons of personal safety and to get out of the elements, you also need to consider what the surfaces you select are doing to your body. Here are a few things you should know about running on different surfaces.
There are many benefits to exercising at a gym facility. Not only do you have access to a load of equipment for cross training purposes, but you can also consult with physical trainers as needed, or even ask for information, opinions, or advice from other members of your gym - many are happy to share their knowledge, experience, and tips and tricks they've picked up over time.
Of course, you can also watch sitcoms, soap operas, or reality TV while you run, which some people find diverting during long hours spent training for a race or trying to shed a few pounds. It gets better, though.
A treadmill is perhaps the best surface to run on. It's even and cushioned, which means the impact on your joints is lessened and there's no chance of tripping in a divot or twisting your ankle on a loose stone.
The downside for some people is the boredom and monotony of running and going nowhere, not to mention the fact that the sameness of training doesn't prepare them for the real-world challenges of an actual race, which will almost certainly take place outdoors.
Running on a synthetic track surface is very similar to using a treadmill. The surface is even and springy, reducing impact and the potential for injuries. In terms of variety, it is really just a larger hamster wheel, so again, you might get easily bored going around and around.
On the upside, you'll at least get to run outdoors, giving you the opportunity to experience exercising in different weather conditions, if not different road conditions. This can help if you're training for a race.
Concrete is the polar opposite of the cushy surfaces you'll find on treadmills and running tracks. It is hard and unforgiving, and you will feel it in your bones and joints with every impact. If you have ankle, knee, or hip problems, you probably don't want to run on cement, and if you don't have such issues, don't be surprised if you develop them.
The only real benefit of running on sidewalks is that it's probably the safest place to run outdoors. You aren't likely to come into contact with cars or wild animals (except maybe a loose schnauzer) when you jog on the sidewalks in your neighborhood.
Unless you choose busy streets for running, you should take advantage of the option to run on asphalt instead of concrete as it strikes a good balance of soft and sturdy. In addition, many races are run on city streets, so you'll be well prepared to perform. Just make sure to wear bright colors and apparel that features reflective tape if you're going to invade traffic lanes.
Packed dirt isn't too hard on your body, but trails are notoriously uneven compared to paved running surfaces. Injuries are common when running trails, so it's important to get the right shoes and pay close attention to where you're stepping.