Variety is the key to way you hit the ground running
Running is a little more complicated than many people think. For runners of every ability, from the casual weekend jogger to marathon runners, there is the constant worry about form, how to protect their joints and the proper footwear to keep them from injury.
One of the big debates among people who run is what is the best and safest surface to run on. It's possible to run on just about any surface: grass, trails, road, treadmill, track or sand. While you may think that running on soft surfaces may help lower the strain on your body, this may not always be the case. Over the past few weeks, I have done most of my runs on the road and nice flat grass, as I feel more balanced and I am able to maintain a more relaxed rhythm.
Which running surface is best?
GRASS: The grassland of parks, golf courses and football pitches provides the most natural surface for running. While grass is soft and easy on the legs in terms of impact, it actually make your muscles work harder, which is good.
TRAILS: Woodland trails can be a mixed bag in terms of quality. A woodchip trail through a huge forest is the ultimate runner's treat. Wet slippery mud is very hard to run on and increases your risk of injury, especially to calves and Achilles tendons. The unevenness of dirt trails can be bad for your hips and ankles.
Runners are creatures of habit. During the winter months the trails can get very wet and I often see people trying to run through the muck and I believe they are doing themselves more harm than good.
ROAD: Running on the road provides considerably less shock absorption, but it offers stable, predictable running. Running on hard surfaces is sometimes unavoidable and convenient. Most races are held on roads, so runners need to be accustomed to the experience of running on this surface. While the road is rather solid, it's easy to measure distance on it and it's simple to keep up a steady rhythm. When running on the side of the road, try to avoid the camber as this puts strain on your body.
TRACKS: Running tracks provide a reasonably forgiving surface and being exactly 400 metres around makes measuring distances and timing sessions easy.
TREADMILLS: When the weather is bad, a treadmill is a good option and a great way to maintain your fitness. The smooth surface is generally easy on the legs, but running on a treadmill can get tedious. Always put the treadmill on a slight incline.
CONCRETE: Running on footpaths can be convenient if you live in a city. Concrete is one of the hardest surfaces you can run on. At the end of the day, I believe the most important factor to avoid running injuries is how efficient, balanced and relaxed you are at moving your body. Variety is the spice of life, and go by your instincts and what works best.
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