Training Ideas: Grass Running
This idea is as simple as it sounds. Build the calves by running on grass. Grass running is perfect for those preparing for cross country races and those looking to build stabilizers in their legs. So often training is done on the track and road that grass running is completely forgotten. The problem with this is that you can only go so far by training the same way over and over – changing it up makes your body have to work in new ways. This leads to muscles being developed which otherwise wouldn’t, more comfort when on new terrain, and your body learning new motions to improve and recreate.
Grass running can be done for short stretches and long stretches, with fast speeds and slow speeds. Here’s our idea:
Our Running Idea:
Lace up your shoes and get hydrated. It’s time to try something new, a lot of runners don’t spend their time on the grass. By trying something you don’t usually do, you give yourself a mental break from the track or same trails you lap over and over again. The idea is to get comfortable with holes, uneven ground, and the soft dirt. To do this, you have to run around in the grass as if you were a child again. Seriously.
Take a nice, long warm-up to get used to the terrain. If it’s spring, the ground will be very soft and you might get muddy. If it’s the fall, it will be hard and will make your ankles have to do more work directly after you land.
Try this: run a few strides after your warm-up to see how power is absorbed by the ground. You’ll quickly realize that you simply can’t go as fast, but you end up with calves burning from the workout. The soft grass and dirt leads to your calves having to work extra hard to prevent you from slipping and falling. This develops the stabilizers in your muscles, designed to keep you upright and tall.
Take it at easy-run pace when you begin. This way it’s less likely to end you up in injury, and you can learn how the grass bumps up and curves down, with holes or without.
After you get used to the terrain being so uneven, then you can switch to faster paces in later sessions.
By building up these stabilizers, you can improve running form and the amount of power you can actually output – since you have more stabilizers, the other parts of your muscles can focus directly on applying force. This is great for both sprinters and distance runners.
Grass can have a lot of holes, bumps, and rocks hidden underneath. Taking a walk around to map out what the ground look like is a good idea before you start off. It’s easy to roll an ankle or trip when you don’t suspect that anything could topple you.
Luckily, because of how soft dirt and mud is, the chances of high-impact related injuries decrease by a lot. Even if you do fall, the Earth will cushion you while the track will give a nice burn.
Also, take care to massage your calves and muscles out to loosen them up after the run. Due to how much your calves are going to be used, and how much your ankles are going to have to counter twisting and rolling, it’s very easy for your muscles to become very tight. An ice bath can help out as well, if you dare!
One of the biggest benefits from running in the grass is simply working the calves so much. A grassy hill is even better. A lot of power is absorbed by the supple ground, so powering up a hill will be even tougher. This can also work your hamstrings and quadriceps in ways that other hill training simply can’t achieve.
Run barefoot. You’ll build up a lot of skill in foot control and will become more comfortable with your running. Just by trying something new you’ll grow as a runner and build up confidence. Confidence in racing is very important, it can help you push through the rough patches when your emotions are in conflict.
You’ll also learn how to land properly and protect your feet better than you would with running shoes, since you have no cushioning. Running in the grass allows you to have a soft landing despite the lack of shoes even if you do slip up.
Running in the grass is not just something kids can do. Runners can find a lot of benefit to running in the grass, as it requires more power just to go the same speed, and requires more stabilizers to keep you balanced. Those who do yoga understand the importance of balance, and by continuing to build your stabilizers and stretching you can still be as springy in older age.
- Calves are strengthened.
- Foot control is improved.
- Stabilizers grow.
- Your comfort zone expands.
- Breaks up your training.
Remember to start off slow. You may be used to running on the road and track, but grass is entirely different. Short, slow runs are best before you shift the gear to quicker paces.
The beautiful thing about is that it’s completely natural to run on nature. Our ancestors had to do it every day to survive, to explore, and to have fun. Our body is naturally inclined to be able to run on damp Earth. So why not put it into your training?
Caleb Thompson is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com, Amazon.ca, and other Amazon stores worldwide.
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