I don’t think I’ve ever met someone who could say they had one favorite place to train. Thinking about this it made me consider why exactly that is. That then made me contemplate what kind of benefits come from each kind of training surface? An all around surface kind of person myself, I’ve experienced the highs and lows of all varieties of training surfaces. Now for a few respective pros and cons for each.Park
Soft surface running is usually a great relief for your body. It allows for overused parts of the body that get damaged during hard surface running to relax a little and take a break from being strained. Scenic paths also have a type of therapeutic quality, that sometimes relieve the stresses of everyday life. A fast, flat course can also be adapted to imitate track workouts- something that benefits those of us who suffer from shin problems.
Beware the hill. Respect the hill. They can be a great way to strengthen your running but it is important to pay attention to any twinges in the hip, shin, ankle, and foot area. While you do have to go up on your toes to get up hills, the greater danger comes from ‘taking the down hill.’ Being able to utilize hills is a great skill but push harder than comfortable on a downhill and you will surely be hurting. The dangers of trail running in parks can be that some aren’t so well maintained. Extra vigilance is required as preventive measures against rolling an ankle on uneven ground or tripping on a root.
Road running can definitely be a great way to speed up your workouts. For those runners more concerned with long distance running it’s non-repetitive nature keeps things interesting; especially to those who get bored fairly quickly on long runs. While I did say that hard-surface running can strain the body for some people, some people do amazingly well with it. It can also be a great way to toughen up weak spots and in many cases offers stability in foot landing. Fun fact: In my experience parking lots have been the best place to run during snowstorms because they are one of the few places salted and plowed!
To those unfortunately susceptible to shin problems this is probably one of the worst training surfaces you can run on. This news isn’t that big of a surprise with how much it is repeated in by many different outlets on running. A major negative aspect of road running is the effects caused by slippery roads. Feet have a natural tendency to land in a less than stable way and what might seem like a harmless, continuous foot slip at the time can later culminate in a ankle, knee or hip strain. Not everyone has the patience to do a stop-and-go run, I’m definitely one of those. Having to stop at the end of blocks to wait for cars can really put a damper on a workout but it is a necessary safety evil.
Starting with the most obvious, running on a track allows for a unique time standard that you can’t quite get entirely accurately when running in a park or on the road. Training here is great for all types of distances, giving the benefit of accuracy and stability. When training for the marathon I found running on the track motivated me to do a countdown each mile I completed, it was inspiring but it is by no means for everyone.
Hard surfaces strike again! Sometimes running on the track can be quite aggravating to any body parts feeling a little under the weather. For those concerned with keeping entertained during runs, the track I admit can get pretty boring and the fact that they usually don’t tend to be scenic doesn’t help this matter. Something important thing to remember is if you frequently run on the track to switch directions. When running in a single direction there is a greater tendency to overcompensate with one side of the body and most commonly take their shape in hip and knee injuries. Hip injuries are especially predominant in indoor track runners who deal with tight turns throughout their season.
At the end of the day, the surface choice is yours but realize that the saying “Too much of anything isn’t good,” is applicable here also.
About the Author: Marie Walsh is a senior at Rice University, who runs for the Owl’s Cross Country and Track & Field Team. An avid runner, she loves to learn whatever she can about the sport and spread the knowledge.
Follow Marie on Twitter @MarieAWalsh