Running on trails works your foot and leg muscles in a way road running doesn’t, but it’s possible to mimic some of the benefits of the trails without leaving your urban hometown — you just have to get creative.
Photo by Steve Baker
Cobblestone streets can provide an uneven surface to strengthen your feet and ankles. Running up stairs (whether in a stadium or a skyscraper) partly substitutes for charging up hills. Meanwhile, gym exercises like plyometrics and agility drills give a way to practise fast footwork.
While these exercises are optional for dedicated city slickers, they’re essential if you’re hoping to run a trail race or do a lot of running on a camping holiday. In that case, don’t forget to prepare for downhills, too. Amanda MacMillan writes at Outside:
Incline treadmill training can also boost cardiovascular conditioning. But try to find some real hills (or a treadmill that also has a negative incline function), as well. “The eccentric contractions from running downhill is very hard to mimic outside of actually running downhill,” says [ultrarunner and coach Zach] Bitter. “Training for uphill portions of trail can be much more easily mimicked through strength-building exercises.”
If you have your own treadmill, you can raise the back of it to achieve a negative incline. Running down stairs, especially at a fast pace, is also good training for downhills. Read more at the link below for trail-training tips you can do in the big city, and don’t forget our guide to safe and happy trail running.