I have been running now for some 25 years, and started competing in 1992 when I ran my first half marathon at Bath. After many years of successful road running, I wanted another challenge and "Off-Road Running" was the answer! Once I had taken the transition from road to trail there was no going back, I was hooked !!!! The rough terrain, the need for more endurance, the sense of freedom, and the mental focus needed to run at speed over technical terrain, all these things combined gave me a real buzz.

But first I had to make some changes to the way I ran, I had to change my running technique, I wanted to feel the ground under my feet, I wanted sensory feed back to the brain (proprioception.) Our body's sense of its own position, balance and movement.

Photo from the Purbeck Marathon 2013

So what is "The Art Of Off-Road Running" ?

I believe in running naturally, but as runners we have forgotten how to do this. Many years of over cushioned shoes creating poor posture meant 80% of runners suffer from injury every year. To me Off-Road Running is an Art. To run naturally over rough technical terrain at speed just touching down with minimal effort is an Art but it can be mastered.

But the transition should not be rushed, it takes time to make the transition from heel to mid foot contact. Your feet should land under your body's centre of mass, coming down on the mid foot with a bent knee, this is your body's natural suspension, cushioning within the body.

If you over stride with your feet landing well in front of you, you will break slightly every step and spend more time on the ground rather than transitioning quickly to the next step.

If I told a runner to take off their shoes and socks and run down a road they would make contact with their mid foot and not their heel, it would hurt too much to come down on the heel bone. This is where over cushioned shoes have taken the natural way of running from us.

The running shoe should protect the foot from the environment, it should not restrict the foot in any way. The shoe should not control the foot, but the foot control the shoe, it should be low in profile having close contact with the ground.

Flexibility is another important factor to look at within the runner, maintaining a healthy range of movement in your muscles, joints and tendons is vital to a runner's life. Regular flexibility work reduces the incidence of aches, pain and injury due to muscle imbalance and tightness and can increase the efficiency of the running form and recovery by improving blood flow to the working muscles and range of motion in joints.

All these thing can make such a big difference to your enjoyment and success of Off-Road Running.

Off-Road Running and Functional Training - www.peteroper.com

Article Author

Peter Roper :The Off Road Guru
Pete Roper is heralded as 'The OffRoad Guru' in the veteran class. He specialises in providing tailored training programmes and Fast-Packing adventures on the South West Coast path, also Off Road running workshops, check it out @ peteroper.com.
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