Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Off-Roading Like a Kid

My left hip was sore after Saturday’s run, so I decided not do my long run on Sunday. Unfortunately this was the most important run of the week to miss, but then again it was a recovery week. Oh well, it’s best to not create a long term injury due to my lack of patience.
Today I thought that I would try a flat surface and stay off-road, so I went to the high school. I ran on the rubberized track, grass, and then diverted into the woods that the cross country team follows. I took one wrong turn, but who cares. We turned around and got back on the trail.
Now that Evan is out of school, he came along to ride his bike. Evan’s not into running...

so it was pretty cool to have him join me. The company was welcome and made the run go faster. Now I have a cross training partner. Tomorrow will be a bike ride. Yes!
There are mixed reviews about running off-road on soft surfaces such as grass and sand. Some claim that soft surfaces can lead to tendonitis, inflammation of the joints and tendons, and even fractures. These are the same articles that claim that increasing your weekly mileage by more than 10% each week can increase your risk for injury. So far there is no scientific evidence supporting the 10% rule. 10% is a percentage that appears to have been randomly selected like a lottery number.
After searching, I could not find research validating the benefits of running on grass versus hard surfaces. There was one study comparing the energy costs of running on grass versus sand; that’s all I could find.
Are all of these claims a bunch of bunk?
It seems that cross country teams can run on grass and trails regularly without injury and it's fun. Dodging rocks and sticks reminds me of running like a kid again. It’s fun and provides variety.
Variety in my running is crucial to remaining a healthy. I appreciate the uneven surfaces of trails and grass. It forces me to not run lazy. I lift my feet higher and pay closer attention to the footing. The uneven surface mobilizes all of the muscles, connective tissue, and joints for improved stability that the road cannot offer. Do yourself a favor and never compare your split times off-road with road running. You invariably will run slower off-road and can be easily disappointed with your results. Instead, listen to your breathing and pace yourself accordingly. 
As I said in my previous blog about listening to your body and learning its nuances, listen to your body. Even if the running gurus and scientific community make claims, do yourself a favor and become a learned runner by reading and listening to others, yet apply those suggestions to your unique training needs.  Push hard, but do it right. For example, a good gauge for me is the “next day rule.” After running for several years on a regular basis, I should not be sore the day after a training run. Maybe a race, but not after training.
I believe that if I can live a balanced life with diet, exercise, rest, and stretching I can persevere and enjoy running like kid for many years. Okay, maybe slower, but just as memorable. Try it.
10% Rule Controversies
Sand vs. Grass Study

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