Alex has given me hope when I thought my Ironman race season wouldn’t happen due to chronic Achilles issues.
Declan, London

From Road to Trail and Back Again

Its Autumn and time that we set our running and exercise goals for next season.  Wether it is a 5km/10km/1/2 or full marathon that we are training for, the training load placed upon the body can be damaging.

Setting the Scene

As we know running is an activity of repetitive nature, so 50% of the time the left or the right leg is being loaded.  SO,  If your running cadence is 180 strides per minute, then you would be doing a great number of repetitions/leg/minute.

15 mins – 1350 repetitions

20 mins – 1800 repetitions

30 mins – 2700 repetitions

60 mins – 5400 repetitions

If we were to go to the gym, then we may do up to 20-30 repetitions before changing exercise.

Constantly running on roads and landing the same way step after step, can be damaging, if you look at the accumulative effect of sheer numbers that we have just discussed.  So, breaking up this accumulative loading can be done by taking yourself off into the trails that surround your running routes.  The positive effects of which are numerous


  • Reduction of impact – take away the mechanical stress from the pounding on hard pavements and roads.  Less impact means less energy required to absorb it.
  • Increased stimulus to your running stability muscles – With the trails being a little uneven, the need to stabilise the joints and body is increased, overall making us a stronger runner.
  • Requires more directional changes and lateral movement The more that we can challenge the body the better.  If we only ever ran in a straight line then, then we are only stable in that movement.  Challenge the outside of the commonly accepted norm and we limit our potential.
  • Altered foot strike patterns – Both foot strike and stride length may vary as much as every stride.  The benefits of which are enormous and all come back to the ‘I must protect myself’ mantra.

Think of trail running as a circuit training session with a specific, targeted and functional outcome.

Trail Run exercises

  • Fast feet
  • Lateral hops
  • Lunges
  • Core stability
  • Leg Strength
  • Leg Speed
  • Leg Power

…… to name but a few

So many times we get the longer distance endurance athlete in the clinic that elude to the reason for injury was the half or full marathon event.  When really it wasn’t the event but intact the training load that preceded it. We must be ‘smart’ with our training, with the number one priority being ‘Injury Prevention’.


Recently the weather has turned the sun baked trails into something less desirable.  A traditional road running shoe may not cut it out there and you may want to consider looking at getting a trail shoe that has a great grip, but must duplicate the function of your road shoe.

So take time to ponder on the virtues of trail running for prevention, preparation and performance.

‘train SMART, train effectively & stay injury free’
Trail Training the way forward

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