Subaru Ambassador and professional triathlete, Courtney Atkinson explains the difference between trail and road running, and shares his tops trail running tips.

These days I spend a significant part of my training on foot in the forest, even though my running focus is on Olympic games triathlon, which will be run and won on the hard bitumen of Rio de Janeiro’s beachfront roads.

The best part of trail running is you get away from the rat race, and the cars.

Time seems to become insignificant once I am somewhere in the middle of the bush and it’s the good vibes that come from exercise coupled with the de-stress of being out within nature.

I find running becomes less of a chore and more of an adventure. But it’s not all fun and games.

There are some significant benefits from training off-road that have a positive impact on my road running performance.

Top Reasons I Trail Run:

  1. Build strength. Running up challenging terrain works the ankles, calves and gluts but also just as important, running the downhill at good pace, strengthens my ability to stabilise through my knees.
  2. Soft Surface. Less impact on my legs and body allows faster recovery and the ability for me to then run more or be fresher from day to day.
  3. Leg Speed. Using downhill sections promotes faster leg turnover especially when at start of season when I am not doing a lot of specific faster work.
  4. Variety and Enjoyment. So much of training is geared around distances, effort and time. It’s good to be able to break away from this mentality while still knowing the running will add great value.
  5. Healthy Feet. Running on road and treadmills repeatedly stresses the same joints in a very specific motion. The uneven surface and varying terrain of trails promotes range of motion, strengthens ankles and feet.

Best Trail Running Tips:

  1. Work with the terrain not against it. Use gravity on descents to create momentum to start uphills.
  2. Stay agile and light on your feet. You may need to break up strides to move over obstacles and rougher terrain.
  3. Keep your eyes focused a few metres ahead of your feet. This has the double effect of helping maintain good running posture but also lessens the chance of falling. I find if I’m preoccupied with what’s at my feet, I trip. Let your natural proprioception take over.

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