You don’t need to charge hundreds of miles of trails like Dean Karnazes or Scott Jurek to reap the body benefits of running off-road. Hitting the trail—even a smooth gravel, dirt or woodchip path—works your muscles, tendons and ligaments (and more) differently than running on the road or treadmill. And running trails that head uphill or down…you’re not only building your cardiovascular engine, but strengthening quads, glutes, calves, and core, too.
You’re also improving your balance and proprioception (your body’s ability to know where it is in space) when trail running—a benefit that carries over into all the other sports and activities you do.
As with any training program, easing into trail running is important. If you’re just starting out, seek a smooth, mellow trail and work your way up to more “technical” (aka: tricky) terrain. Your muscles, joints and ligaments will gradually and safely become stronger than ever.
For more inspiration, check out these 8 parts of your body that trail running can transform: