Does your experience running on the road transfer to running on trail?
You’re knowledge of how your body deals with running transfers, although, not perfectly. This is because you burn about ten percent more calories running trails, which means you are going to have to fuel your body more. The other difference is hydration and electrolytes. At higher altitudes, you need to consume more water and electrolytes. Road runners do have a foot up on those who are just starting out because they have a base of knowledge.
When you first switch from road to trail, you’ll discover muscles and tendons you didn’t know you had because they are going to get tired and sore. On the trail, you have to pull in more supporting muscles and tendons as you work to balance and increase your agility. You’re stride becomes shorter and faster as you hopscotch through rocks and roots. Your ankles become stronger as they adjust to the changing surface of the trail.
Running road hills and mountains is very different. There are some difficult road hills, and you usually find them in the mountains. Running mountains requires strong hamstrings, glutes, calves, and quads. You’ll find yourself on steep grades for long distances. Few quarter mile hills here. I often find myself climbing for 6-9 miles in one go because of the switchbacks to get to ridges or peaks. Even most “flat” trails are really rolling hills.
Running down is more challenging on the road and on the trails because of the increased impact and the higher chance of over striding. Trails will keep the length of your stride under control, but they often have dips and steep drops littered with the lovable rocks and roots. Sometimes there are fallen trees and rivers too. You may have to walk some mountains because they are too steep to make it worth the energy expenditure to get up to them and you’re likely to go just as fast walking as running.
Trail running takes more time. The changing terrain, rivers, and steep/long climbs slow you down, so make sure and a lot for this if you have things you are doing after your run. Initially, you’re going to be more worn out after your runs as well. This will go away once your body is use to the higher demands of the trail.
Running in general destresses a person. Running on trails does this on a deeper level. When you are listening to birds and owls in the early mornings, rivers rumbling past, reaching a summit and looking out over row upon row of mountains it’s impossible not to just let all the stresses of life melt away.
I encourage everyone to run because of the many benefits of doing so and trails are the best place for running.