With the London Marathon still fresh in our minds and the Great Eastern coming up in 5 months time, many people will be starting running for the first time or training to increase distance. So what surface should we run on? There are many different surfaces and switching between them provides a greater workout and strengthens the muscles, ligaments and tendons and lowers the risk of injury.
Concrete provides convenience for many of us but it is the hardest surface for us to run on so it’s a good idea to mix it up and avoid clocking up too many miles on this surface. As you increase your distance running look for different surfaces and if you regularly run on concrete, factor in rest days each day after.
Grass that has been mown right down is the best surface to run on as the soft, low impact surface works your muscles hard, building strength and you can practice speed work without fear of impact injuries. Take care on uneven ground though and avoid running on wet or long grass.
Woodland trails are picturesque and soft wood chip can provide a great low impact surface for muscles and joints to develop on. There are usually nice variations of up and down hill but take care not to trip on tree roots or pine cones and slip in muddy conditions.
Off road is one of my favourite surfaces to run on and the one I began running on when recovering from patellar tendinitis. I would run in areas behind the bushes that lined the cycle way and found the dry, dirt surface was soft making it perfect to build up my strength safely. Running off road in the wet makes injury more likely though so is best avoided.
Sand can vary hugely. Flat, firm sand close to the sea is the best kind and the tide going in and out is hugely beneficial in regulating breathing. Soft sand works the calf muscles hard increasing your risk of an achilles tendon injury and it doesn’t feel fun at all. I wouldn’t ruin a nice holiday run by running in the soft sand!
Tarmac is the fastest surface to run on and is an even surface with more bounce than concrete making it the better of the two man made surfaces to run on. It is still a hard and unforgiving surface compared to more natural alternatives.
What is your favourite surface to run on?