Running doesn’t come easily to me. I’m slow. I struggle to get up early, when it’s dark and cold, and the excuses are many. Despite all that, trail running with friends at dawn on a Saturday morning is one of the highlights of my week. I’d encourage other women to try adding trail running to their fitness program as an efficient and enjoyable workout. We can all learn to run.
Trail running benefits
There are numerous programs (eg Couch25K) that help you learn to run by using a run, walk, run approach to build up your strength and distance. Bush trail running has advantages over road running in that it is softer underfoot so gentler on your joints. It requires concentration – the mental effort is a useful distraction from any physical tiredness. The nature of bush track helps build balance and agility. Natural obstacles in bush trails, such as a rocky section or a creek crossing, provide a useful excuse to slow down briefly and recover.
One of our regular routes is a 10km out-and-back from Frenchy’s Café, Headland Park to Taronga Zoo Wharf along a nicely graded bush track, with some stairs, hills and a beach for variety. This route is popular with locals, but is quiet early in the morning. Traffic is non-existent and parking is free. An out-and-back accommodates the differences in fitness levels within our social running group, with the slower ones turning around before the speedy runners who go out further. If you are nursing an injury, you can slow down to a fast walk and add in some stair intervals.
Coffee at the chic Frenchy’s Cafe at the end is a treat. Other rewards for dragging myself out of bed are the dawn sky, harbour scenery, and the bird and city life stirring at the start of day. Longer term rewards of regular trail running include improved cardiac fitness and strength, weight loss and lowered stress. For women, it also helps strengthen bones and maintain bone mass, and decreases your risk profile for a number of diseases.