A Guest Blog By BAMBassador Rosie Underwood
Whether its rugged, vast, exposed coastal paths, oxygen rich, shaded woodland, or getting our muscles working mechanically with the resistance on beach trails, it doesn’t take an Olympian born in the foothills of the Rockies to work out that nature really delivers the goods, when it comes to the physical benefits of running. But making the link between mental and physical health is something that often gets overlooked, even by professionals when it comes to getting on and off the beaten track.
As much as the community of gym culture has its pulls, I’ll never forget my beginner’s mindset the first time I ever entered one. Everywhere I looked, I saw people using equipment to fake doing the real version of something, under artificial light in what felt like artificial air-conditioned air. People rowing on machines that weren’t on water, people cycling on stationary bikes, and running whilst staring at a screen on a man-made surface that was moving for them beneath their feet. From an evolutionary perspective, we’re hard wired to alert both body and soul to the challenge’s nature presents us, so none of this made sense to me.
Grabbing my running shoes and quite literally running for the hills shifted my perspective entirely. The positive effects were way more far reaching than I had realised. Suddenly I was experiencing the vast horizon as a daily reminder that I’m part of something much bigger than my immediate surroundings, the shifts and changes in nature allowed me to take comfort in life’s impermanent, yet cyclical nature and it boosted my confidence as I gathered evidence of my own resilience. When I had to dig deep and challenge my stamina as the terrain changed and I came up against the elements, I felt more alive, resilient, triumphant and unstoppable!
Trail run for a confidence boost
As you run you learn how to overcome obstacles and fatigue, you gain focus and determination through the elements in general. ‘The strength trail running gives you translates to all areas of your life.’ Says former competitive ski racer and personal trainer at London’s Bodyism, Lotti Sorrell. ‘The varied terrain, the concentration it takes to cross rocky paths, navigating through trees and slippery ground means you become fully immersed in each moment.’ She adds. ‘You gain courage with each obstacle, meaning there’s no room for worries, which makes it priceless.’
Trail run to lift your mood and self esteem
When you haul yourself up an incline you begin to see how much your mind will try and quit way before your body will, when given no choice but to tackle these voices, the feeling upon reaching your destination is both invigorating and triumphant, even if you walked there. Every step you take is one step closer to feeling more like yourself, a step closer to your goal, which naturally elevates your mood. On top of that, the simplicity of stepping one foot in front of the other outside increases blood flow to the brain and releases natural mood elevating compounds. This means we start to value our brains and our bodies as unified organisms, we can’t have the health of one without the other.
Trail run to reduce anger
The times we’re living in are spilling over with reasons to make us angry, so it comes as no surprise that ‘rage runs’ have become a thing. Growing fury over the state of the world needs a realistic release, and as you channel frustrations into treading the ground, any untamed emotions will begin to subside, so long as you breathe deeply prior to hitting the hills. Remember your feelings are valid, and incredibly normal given the times, but a positive outlet for anger that’s scientifically backed like trail running, with a side portion of accomplishment and mastery is a sure-fire way to take the edge off a bad mood.
Fulfilling the needs of both a tense body and an anxiety prone mind, its clear that trail running’s emotional benefits are endless. A strong body translates to a strong mind and vice versa, taking your body to a place it hasn’t been to yet physically, expands your mind and shapes it to a new dimension. We can disconnect from the pressures of daily life, to reconnect with ourselves as part of the planet we’re born from. Own the emotions you’re feeling and let nature and your body override that internal narrative that holds you back, challenge your perception and run free!