Virtues of Trail Running/Hiking

By: Dr Dawn DPT

“If you take any activity, any art, any discipline, any skill – take it and push it as far as it will go, push it beyond where it has ever been before, push it to the wildest edges of edges, then you force it into the realm of magic.” ~ Tom Robbins

Trail running takes running into the realm of magic for me.  The further I run and the more difficult the trail, the more magical the experience. But above and beyond the magic of communing with nature and my own body, there are many virtues to trail running or hiking no matter the distance!

Hitting the trails builds strength, enhances balance and coordination, develops mental focus, and teaches good running skills that are translatable to pavement running. The uneven surfaces of rocks, roots, and ruts demand constant mental focus, short quick steps, side to side hopping, and continual fascial and ligamentous as well muscular adjustments from the ankles through the hips and spine in multiplanar movements. All of these great demands on the body serve to build injury resistance. The softer surface of the trails is easy on the joints too!

There are a few considerations to create a safe experience while you are communing with nature:

Walking/power hiking is okay and even encouraged especially on steep ascents/descents or very rough or unfamiliar terrain

Pick up your feet!

Keep your steps short and quick

Keep your gaze just ahead of you not directly down at your feet

Engage your core and stand tall

Go for time not distance: road miles are not translatable to trail miles

Take water, nutrition, and a fully charged phone

Familiarize yourself with the trail beforehand and/or go with someone experienced

Smile and offer friendly greetings to all those out there on the trails with you!

Take only memories; leave only footprints!

I hope you seriously consider hitting the trails after reading this little piece.  Maybe I’ll see you out there! Check out the links for trail running/hiking groups in the Los Angeles area.

Famous (or almost) trail runners:

Laird Hamilton, big wave surfer

Lance Armstrong, cyclist

Paula Radcliffe, women’s marathon world record holder

Ryan Sutter, firefighter and winner of the first season of The Bachelorette


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