Ask the Expert—Dr. Izzy Lira
Q: What are the differences between running on the street and trail running?
A: Running is a high-impact sport, which can cause achy joints, irritated tendons, and sometimes IT band tightness. While you may think that running on soft surfaces may help lower the strain on your body, this may not always be the case. Runners who run on softer surfaces don’t always have fewer injuries than those who run on asphalt or concrete. If you’re new to running, start either on a treadmill, track, or the streets around town. Start with just a mile or two at first and slowly increase time and miles spent running and you will build stamina for longer runs.
Running on the street is a great way to practice your form. It’s important to strike a balance between form and breathing if you want to improve as a runner. Too much “bouncing” will waste energy and place greater impact on your joints, so focus on your feet and how they hit the ground. You’ll want to hit at about mid-foot, not your heel to avoid repetitive stress and potential injury. If you’re already an experienced runner, road running is the perfect place to play with speed drills, hill running (try heading up Garcia Road to APS), and of course distance. Bottom line here is take it slow when increasing miles. Don’t be a ‘weekend warrior’ and try to run 10 miles right away!
To lessen the impact of constantly striking the hard ground, try trail running. Luckily, here in Santa Barbara, we have plenty of trails to choose from. While definitely more scenic,trail running can be more difficult than road running due to the fact that your body has to adjust to steeper or rougher terrain, avoid rocks, and take care not to slip on any loose gravel. Try the many flats of Rattlesnake Canyon as a start if you’re new to trail running. You can then work up to running the inclines too. Romero Canyon is another great local trail running spot. Hike up to the fire road and then run as it winds down the mountain. Great views, here! You might even find that running trails makes road running easier too. Just watch out for pollen (hello allergies) in the spring and snakes in the summer.
Our bodies will eventually adapt to whatever surface we choose no matter how hard it is, so give yourself time to adapt and make sure you’re wearing proper footwear. And as always, see your chiropractor or doctor for more tips!
A Doctor of Chiropractic, Izzy Lira is also a strength and conditioning specialist.