Soft Surface Running
by Coach Matt Russ
Of the three sports of triathlon, running takes the hardest toll on your body. The impact forces and eccentric contractions associated with running stress muscles, ligaments, and tendons to a point that requires greater recovery than the other sports. The surface you run on also contributes to this body break down.
We work with athletes of all age categories and abilities, some of whom come to us with chronic injuries. We are often able to resolve these injuries with a sound training plan, increased rest and recovery, and more creative coaching methods. One of these is soft surface running. It is no secret that a forgiving surface removes impact forces placed on the body. One of our athletes recently observed how much better she felt after a trail half marathon versus a road race.
An added bonus is that soft surface running can strengthen the lower leg and help prevent injuries such as shin splints and ankle sprains. This additional strength creates more power at takeoff. Trail running can also be a welcome variety to your plan and it also improves coordination and timing. You may want to purchase a trail running shoe that has added traction and support.
Concrete is by far the hardest surface to run on followed by asphalt. In my opinion �soft� surfaces start with trails, grass, gravel or crushed gravel, rubberized surfaces, and sand. If you choose a very uneven or varied surface such as a nature trail, it is important to acclimate slowly to the new surface. Your lower leg muscles may be weak and doing too much too soon can cause an overuse injury. Incorporate 1-2 runs per week at about 1/3 of your long run distance to start off with and build progressively each week. Of the surfaces mentioned above, the crushed gravel found on many park trail systems is one of the best to run on, and does not require acclimation if it is even and smooth.
If your race entails running on a hard surface you will want to continue using hard surface runs to ensure your body is used to the impact forces. But soft surface runs scheduled in-between hard surface runs will help increase strength and decrease the amount of recovery time between work outs.
Matt Russ has coached and trained elite athletes from around the country and internationally for over ten years. He currently holds expert licenses from