It’s the beginning of a new year. People are discussing their resolutions and goals and hoping to keep them past Feb 1. While I’m not a huge fan of resolution making, I do like the fundamental reason why we do this. Essentially, we are all looking at our life and wondering what change can we make that will make us happier.
With this collective desire to make positive change in mind, I thought you might like to hear how one addition to my life, trail running, has made me happier, and might do the same for you.
1. The act of being in nature scientifically makes you happier
“Science is proving what we've always known intuitively: nature does good things to the human brain—it makes us healthier, happier, and smarter”– Natural Geographic
The obvious part here is that when trail running, you are in nature. The part that is harder to explain, is that trail running forces you to connect with your surroundings in a deeper way. Racing through the forest is overwhelming and all encompassing. Your stress dissipates, your mind feels free, and your body seems to work better. You’re not just standing or observing, you’re learning and growing, you’re experiencing the terrain. Each step takes focus and care. It’s a straight line to mindfulness. You leave the forest feeling euphoric.
2. The community
Trail running is a beautiful thing, but without question it’s also a physical and mental battle.
During the race you become a tribe with your fellow racers. I’ve met some of the most amazing people on the trails. I’ve listened to their stories and told them mine. Cold, wet, exhausted, or drained, runners will still hang around the finish line to rehash the route and marvel in what they have just finished. Trail racing is guaranteed to introduce you to a new world of like-minded people.
3. The places it takes you
Race directors hand pick trails that are some of the most gorgeous places you will ever see. If you want to truly see what your province, state, or country has to offer, go sign up for a trail race. Right now.
4. The overall health & fitness benefits
Signing up for a race gives you an immediate sense of outer accountability. It will keep you on track and get you out the door when you need a little push.
One of the best parts of preparing for the trails is that you train like a complete athlete. Even a short race will have you climbing hills, descending steep sections, rocky sections, or leaping over logs. You’ll have flat sections for speed and tricky sections for balance. You’ll need both an aerobic and anaerobic base. Here are a few keys things you get to work on when you train for the trails:
5. The sense of adventure and accomplishment.
This one is hard to explain. It must be experienced. There is a sense of mystique taking off into the trails. It’s about the awe and wonder about starting in to a beautiful unknown territory
There are moments during almost every race where you suddenly realize you haven’t seen a little ribbon marker for a while. That you’ve probably gone the wrong way and have to find your way back to the route. You might find you are running alone, have no idea where you are and seem to wish you had more food or water. That’s as raw as it gets for some of us these days. It’s just you, out there in the most beautiful places, trying to go as fast as you can. It’s a real adventure and will leave you glowing.
Choose your race. You don’t need to make any commitments today. Start with researching races around you. Trails come in all shapes and sizes. 5km to 100km and beyond, flat or mountains, just start daydreaming. See what catches your attention.
And always remember, any distance is doable if you decide you want to do it.