Running Environments and Training-Related Factors

Running is a popular sport among multiple populations of people. Like other sports, there are several factors that have the potential to impact performance and the incident of injury while running. Examples of these factors include personal-related, training-related, and health-related factors.1

There are also several types of running surfaces to consider. Common surfaces consists of concrete, synthetic running track, grass, and trails.2 This week we will be focusing on a quick breakdown of trail and road running and their association with performance and injuries. In addition to this, we will be specifically focusing on training-related factors.

How does Trail Running Differ from Road Running?

Trail and road running have a lot of similarities when it comes to training-related factors, but there are specific differences between the two. Trail running can simply be associated with off-road running within the natural environment.3 This type of running consists of changes in elevation, alternating running surfaces, global location, and climate ranges. Trail running, compared to road running, also presents more challenges of dealing with aspects, such as fallen branches, roots, and rocks.3 Due to the various challenges that trail running presents, it’s crucial to be able to quickly assess the environment, respond to the changes in the surface, avoid obstacles, and adjust to elevations.3

Training-Related Factors

All runners have a high-risk of injury, especially dealing with lower body injuries.1 When discussing the training-related factors, research has shown that running kinematics, shoes, and biomechanical changes to running surfaces can potentially play a role in the occurrence of injuries.1,2 Examples of other training-related factors include distance, frequency, and duration.1

Common Biomechanical Related Factors

Footstrike is a common biomechanical training-related factor that’s researched among runners. Footstrike is essentially the way that the foot makes contact with the ground. Your footstrike can change when running up and downhill or on a flat road. Footstrike is frequently broken up into three aspects.4

Rearfoot Strike

The heel contacts the ground first.

Midfoot Strike

The rearfoot and forefoot contacts simultaneously.

Forefoot Strike

The forefoot contacts the ground first.

Another common factor that has been widely discussed are training surfaces. Training surfaces impact load absorption, ground reaction forces, and the motions of the lower region of the body.5 For example, trail surfaces typically results in a decrease of maximal speed, increase in step and cycle time, and an increase in knee extension during footstrike compared to running on a road or hard surface.5 Due to the differences in biomechanical demands between trail and road running, it’s important to develop a training program that will not only enhance performance, but also prevent injuries from occurring.  

These aspects are just two examples of training-related factors that need to be taken into consideration during your training. As you can tell, there is a significant difference between running on roads and trails. Because the training for each impacts our bodies differently, it’s recommended that when you are training specifically for road running, you should not only train on roads. Training should also include a combination of different running surfaces in order to reduce and alter loads.5

How does COROS Play a Role?

Because the risk of injury is high within runners, it’s important to use all of your resources to prevent this from happening. Your COROS watch does have the capability of playing a role in your injury prevention in a few different ways.

Running Performance Metric (Road Running)

The running performance metric is impacted by a variety of factors including sleep, recovery, previous training, and even mental stress. Running Performance is created to provide feedback on how good your last run is compared to your overall running fitness. This metric will allow you to gauge understanding of your performance and make any necessary adjustments to your training.

Base Fitness, Load Impact, and Fatigue

The base fitness metric measures the ability to take on exertion from long-term training. A higher value means your body is capable of training longer and more frequently in higher intensity.

The load impact metric measures the amount of impact brought to your body from short-term training. A higher value means a higher impact is introduced to your body and will limit your performance from tiredness. Load impact goes down if you take more rests and up if you train more.

The fatigue metric reflects the amount of fatigue your body is suffering from the recent training while considering your ability to sustain the impact. A low value means that your body is ready to take on more intensity while a high value indicates overreaching/overtraining.

Like the running performance metric, the base fitness, load impact, and fatigue metrics will allow you to compare performance between runs. More specifically, they allow you the capability to see how your body is reacting to different loads, whether it is from a road or trail.

Conclusion

It’s clear that there are similarities and differences between different types of running. No matter which you prefer, it’s crucial to know what factors are potentially impacting your performance and risk for injury. Begin to pay attention to the training-related factors that may be influencing your performance and be sure to take these into consideration when devleoping a training program. Don’t forget to pay special attention to your COROS watch resources to help with this process!

Michelle Singleton
Michelle Singleton

Michelle has a diverse background in the exercise and sport science world. She is currently finishing her PhD focusing on Human and Sport Performance, with additional backgrounds in athletic training and nutrition. In addition to this, she is a certified and licensed athletic trainer, personal trainer, and educator. She utilizes her extensive education and clinical experience in athletic training, nutrition, and exercise science to help guide and educate others.

References

  1. van Poppel D, van der Worp M, Slabbekoorn A, et al. Risk factors for overuse injuries in short- and long-distance running: A systematic review. Journal of Sport & Health Science. 2021;10(1):14-28.

2. Boey H, Aeles J, Schütte K, Vanwanseele B. The effect of three surface conditions, speed and running experience on vertical acceleration of the tibia during running. Sports Biomechanics. 2017;16(2):166-176.

3. Vincent HK, Brownstein M, Vincent KR. Injury Prevention, Safe Training Techniques, Rehabilitation, and Return to Sport in Trail Runners. Arthroscopy, Sports Medicine, and Rehabilitation. 2022;4(1):e151-e162.

4. Futrell EE, Jamison ST, Tenforde AS, Davis IS. Relationships between Habitual Cadence, Footstrike, and Vertical Load Rates in Runners. Medicine and science in sports and exercise. 2018;50(9):1837-1841.

5. Dar G, Waddington G, Stern M, Dotan N, Steinberg N. Differences Between Long Distance Road Runners and Trail Runners in Achilles Tendon Structure and Jumping and Balance Performance. PM & R: Journal of Injury, Function & Rehabilitation. 2020;12(8):794-804.

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