February 14 2018
We delve into the many reasons why taking an off-season is pertinent to runner recovery.
Although I would never class myself as a serious runner, I do love getting out for a trot every now and again. But over the last few years my running habits became somewhat sporadic, ranging from regular 5-8K jogs in flat parks, to not running for ages and then busting out a 10-15K trail run out in the hills.
I owed my dwindling commitment to regular city runs, to the overly concreted routes that don’t really agree with my ageing knees and back. And in all honesty, I was just a bit bored of the same old places; I love a good view when I’m running, or at least one to aim for, and although there are certainly no shortage of interesting things to gander at in our urban jungles, it just wasn’t doing it for me anymore.
So about a year ago, when my running shoes were about to give up on me, I decided to change my tact and ditch road runners altogether to invest in something more suited to off road running. A bold move, yes, but probably the best thing I could have done to make running feature regularly and consistently in my life.
I bought myself a pair of Salomon Speedcross 3 trail shoes and fell in love with them immediately. Never before had my feet experienced such instantly comfy shoes, and having tried on a bunch, I knew immediately that these were for me.
So why have my new best friends, those trail shoes, changed running so much for me?
Well for starters, I just love being in them; they look pretty and feel great, and whenever I wear them I can’t help but skip and bounce around! The footbed pushes my weight slightly forwards which has helped my running technique considerably. I now run much more on my toes which in turn has taken some of strain off my back.
The trail shoes are not really suited to road running, and although their bounciness absorbs a good deal of the impact from pounding on concrete, the soft rubber lugs on the sole will wear out much more quickly than your average pair of road runners. The odd km or two on concrete is no problem, but the potential for the soles to wear down has forced me into planning much more interesting off road runs as the norm, giving my back and knees the TLC they’ve been asking for. And then because my body feels less battered, I feel like running more!
My new shoes have also shifted my focus from running for fitness, to running as a hobby. Instead of fitting in runs around my schedule, just to keep in shape, I now plan my time around getting out on the trail. If I’m out camping, my trail shoes are packed and I’ll plan a route to do during the trip. I’ll drive places to discover new trails, and I’ll seek out parks with hills that offer great views as my reward.
My attitude towards running has also altered slightly. Previously, I would be really disappointed with myself if I stopped during a run to rest. Perhaps it’s because the terrain is more demanding on trails, but I now have no qualms about taking a breather at the top (or bottom) of a hill if I’m feeling pooped. I know I’ve earned the rest, and it makes the whole experience one of enjoyment and accomplishment rather than great expectations followed by guilt.
And finally, getting out running on the trail has enabled me to discover so much more of the countryside. I love hiking, but to really get to see lots, you need to invest a whole day to a route, that in your runners you could tackle in an hour or two. Yes, it’s much tougher work, but the scenery, variety and route finding are the perfect distractions from aching legs and struggling lungs.
So if you find yourself getting tired of the same old running routine, I would highly recommend getting off road and onto the trail. You’ll be fine in your regular trainers if you try it on a dry day, and then if you love it, your shoe upgrade will be the catalyst to rekindle your love affair with running.
For some inspiration on where trail running could take you, check out Of Fells and Hills—an exploration of the trail and fell running culture in Northern England.