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trail running vs road running for parents

Trail Running vs. Road Running: What’s the Best Running Route for Parents?

As a parent, having energy is a MUST! Your schedule is most likely full on a daily basis. However, natural energy is much more efficient, effective, and better for you than any artificial form of energy. To get it involves just a little bit of effort.

stroller running

Things to Consider When Running is Part of Your Fitness Routine

20 or 30 minutes of running can boost your energy level, stabilize your emotions and improve self-esteem. Running in general can help you achieve health goals. Decide whether you would rather go trail running or road running. Here are some things to consider for your own well-being and fitness needs:

  • Conventional Wisdom

    Because running is a high-impact sport, conventional wisdom says softer surfaces are easier on the body, especially ankles and knees. Surfaces with some give reduce the strain on joints and prevent further injuries. Many runners prefer running on dirt because it’s considered to have just the right amount of flexibility.

  • Another Perspective

    However, conventional wisdom might be wrong. Some studies yield the surprising result that running on soft surfaces may actually produce more injuries than hard surfaces because of their choppy and uneven terrain. In addition, our bodies adapt to the surface, regardless of its flexibility. With that in mind, surface type might simply be a matter of personal preference. Even so, take a quick look at the pros and cons of each terrain.

Trail Running

Benefits

  1. Take the scenic route
    Who wouldn’t prefer running in nature as opposed to concrete and street lights? Natural surroundings such as mountains, trees and grass provide an emotionally and psychologically uplifting experience, all while running in fresh air. Nothing breaks up the boredom and monotony of the “same ol’ run” better than a jaunt through a new trail.
  2. Build your lower-body muscles
    The ever-changing, often uphill terrain requires you to use a greater variety of muscles than you would use running on flat surfaces.

Hang-up

  1. You will face road hazards
    Watch out for obstacles on the trail; rocks, mud and uneven terrain make it easy to trip and fall and increase the possibility of injuries. Before running a trail for the first time it’s a good idea to do some survey work by walking it through to check for hazards.
  2. Location
    Many trails are in isolated areas, making it somewhat risky to run alone. Try to run with at least one other person, and always carry a cell phone. Be on the lookout for animals, and take precautions against insects.
  3. Stroller running inconvenience
    Trails typically aren’t jogging-stroller friendly For parents with smaller children in tow, trail running might present a bigger obstacle than road running since few strollers can combat gravel and tree roots.

Road Running

Benefit

  1. You can’t beat the convenience!
    You don’t need Google Maps to find where you’re going– just head out the door and start running!

    If you are training for a race, by all means hit the road. Since most races are held on the street, it’s to your advantage to familiarize yourself with the sights, sounds and feel of the road.

  2. Bring the kids with you!
    Most jogging strollers are capable of any paved route so you don’t have to wait until a sitter is available to get a run in.

Hang-up

  1. Mind the obstacles
    Obstacles, such as pedestrians, cars, and cyclists can all impede your progress, not to mention red lights and busy intersections that can bring you to a standstill.
  2. Mind your joints
    Many roads and streets are cambered, or angled toward the side of the road. Running on uneven streets can cause knee pain and muscle imbalance.

So, which terrain is best for you? Try them both, and listen to your body. If you have recommendations or suggestions on how to find time for running in your busy schedule as a parent, we’d love to see them in the comments!

Kevin Jones

Kevin Jones is a Writer. Blogger. Communicator. As a happily married father with two amazing kids, he is always learning helpful ways to keep a family active, healthy and happy. Kevin's areas of focus include: health and fitness for all ages, a love of researching family fitness, nutrition, and how to fit workouts into the busy lives we have. Kevin works with multiple fitness companies and organizations such as NordicTrack. Feel free to connect with Kevin on: LinkedIn | Twitter

30 comments

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  • I’m not a runner but I never even considered how many difference there were in benefits between trails and road running. I think if I ever decided to run I would probably go road running. I may be a bit too accident prone for trails! 🙂

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  • I used to run outdoors but I did have to make sure I altered the route a bit because of the whole knee thing. You don’t realize that when you’re driving.

  • Such an informative post. I agree that to enjoy running or jogging, we need to choose something scenic or nice to look at. We often jog or even take a walk as a family and it is both enjoyable and beneficial in building relationship with the kids.

  • I’m more of a walker myself, but I enjoy running sometimes too. I think being outside is way better then exercising inside the home. I love to get fresh air.

  • I’m more of a biker than a runner and if I do exercise, I always go for scenic routes even if that certain path takes longer for me to finish.

  • I use trail running to train for my road running races. The uneven terrain and numerous hills and obstacles make it a lot more challenging than the average road run, and builds a lot of my “balance” muscles . My road running pace always seems to improve after running the trails, which is awesome. However, I do find a lot more strains and problem areas after trail running. Mostly in the ankles from catching a rock or two. I love them both!

  • I think I would prefer trail running for the scenery but I’d probably kill myself tripping on a rock. Walking the trails with the kids is probably safer for me LOL.

  • Hmm, both sides of the coin do have their own pros and cons. I guess you’re right, I might just try it with dirt first then I’ll proceed with concrete. No idea how it will turn out but I’m glad I learned something here for long term jogging!

  • These are very detailed. I love running, most of the time I just run around the neighborhood. The kids are grown up now so it’s easier, but I would’ve loved to see these options when they were younger.

  • I’m not much into running. I prefer a walk. And I like changes in scenery. Even if I don’t have time to hit a park, etc, sometimes I just drive to a different neighborhood, get out of the car and walk around there.

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About Author

Kevin Jones

Kevin Jones is a Writer. Blogger. Communicator. As a happily married father with two amazing kids, he is always learning helpful ways to keep a family active, healthy and happy. Kevin's areas of focus include: health and fitness for all ages, a love of researching family fitness, nutrition, and how to fit workouts into the busy lives we have. Kevin works with multiple fitness companies and organizations such as NordicTrack. Feel free to connect with Kevin on: LinkedIn | Twitter