by Joanne Stacey in Start Running

6 Reasons to Start Cross-Country Running

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If you’re a road runner, it’s time to try something new to jazz up your running life — Cross-Country.

Running cross-country means you’re going off road. You could run on trails, grass, through water or mud, or any combination of these, so be prepared! You’ll want to make sure you have good shoes that are lightweight and sturdy. Also, pay attention to the terrain since it will be uneven and can be dangerous (although this will improve your concentration and running focus).

Besides having better concentration and focus, here are 6 more great reasons to give cross-country running a try:

Fewer joint injuries

Running on the natural earth has less impact on your joints than running on concrete or asphalt. However, the injuries that cross country runners may experience are twisted and sprained ankles, bumps, bruises, and cuts from falling. You’ll want to double or even triple tie your shoelaces so you don’t have to stop to tie them, but also so you don’t trip on them.

Improved speed and endurance

Going up and down hills, through brush and trees, and winding through a cross-country course will help your running performance. Your running stride and tempo will constantly change as you make your way through the course. This will help increase your dexterity and balance, and the challenging runs may help you when you’re out on the road—you could run faster and feel stronger, so your road runs may even seem a little easier.

Use different muscles

When you have to navigate through a variety of running areas, you will use different muscles than you use when you run on a straight, flat, even surface. Your hips, legs, and ankles will get stronger. Also, you will use your thighs more, which means your abdominal muscles and your lower back muscles will have to work harder to support your leg action.

Burn more calories

If you want to lose weight, or even maintain your current weight, cross-country running is a great way to exercise. It’s well known that running burns a lot of calories, but when you mix it up with the different terrain and the hills, your burn rate will go up.

No boring runs

If your normal training routine has become routine, cross-country running can mix it up. You’ll have new experiences and beautiful scenery. The challenges will spice up your runs, and you’ll look forward to your workouts. Also, inclement weather can be a factor, which adds another element of excitement.

Fun races

Once you get the hang of running cross-country, enter a race. They are designed for individuals or for teams. Before the race, get some race specific training in. Find out everything you can about the course: how steep the hills are, how many hills there are, and what obstacles you will encounter. And remember this little tip as well—if you can commit to a fast start, line up in the front. This will give you an edge since there will most likely be bottlenecks in the course where runners will be forced to fall back because the course narrows or only allows for a few runners to get through at one time.

If you’ve never tried cross-country running, it’s just like beginning any other activity—so start slowly and build up your stamina. It will test your cardiovascular strength, your muscular strength, and your mental strength. But the benefits are worth the struggle, so get out into nature and give it a try!

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