Couch to 5K
60,496 members93,149 posts

Is running on trails and tracks harder? Or just my imagination - any other graduates out there?

I'm normally a pavement, nice flat paths in parks slow but steady type.

But on a couple of weekends away recently I've had the chance to run with a friend through a couple of country parks - rough gravelly tracks, muddy paths, woodland paths. WOAH - uneven surfaces, a lot more up and down ( mainly i notice the up, a lot), a bit of slip sliding around.

All good fun and a bit of a change - but I'm knackered! Have done two runs like that over the long Easter weekend - using a music playlist for the first time but doing a similar amount of time 30 - 35 mins. Definitely not covering any more distance.

Please tell me it's more tiring going very slightly off road - I feel like I've discovered muscles I didn't know I had!

It will only be possible some weekends - but I'm wondering if it makes you work harder running on rough paths?

11 Replies

From the bits I've done, I'd say it can be a lot more tiring and slower - but then they've been steep, muddy and covered in hazards like logs and brambles. The ones I've been on in the last two days have both been across hills with 1:10 slopes, so even the flatter bits often have a drop on one side.

On the other hand - so much more fun than roads! Lots of things to look at - woodpeckers, squirrels, yellow-brain fungus! I think trails are probably much better exercise too, with all the jinking, sliding etc. I won't get my best times on them, but that's not the point.


Yep it's at this point I fess up to walking the steepest hill which was short but sharpI my sim is to run it by the summer on another visit. still amazed I can run on the flat. i am going to have to practice this up and down business. I might need to find one in a park and just go up and down - a different kind of interval. But agreed a lot more diverting.


Yes, it is harder, but it is much more interesting and is good for you too!

You'll be using more muscles as you cope with uneven ground and stepping over rocks and tree roots. You're using the smaller, subsidiary leg muscles, but also your core muscle too as you balance when you make small movements to avoid hanging branches, jump across the deepest puddles, step from one rut to another,

Read this article:

I've taken my weekly hill training session (100m ascent in 2km), my long, slow, distance run, and my (occasional 'easy 5' sessions to off-road routes now. I'm running slower than the tempo road runs, but I don't care.


Thanks will read with interest. Explains why my bum is tired!


Great article, swanscot. So I've been doing "strength training"! :)


I'm very pleased to read this as I run on a path through my woods. It is half a kilometre round the path but it is very twisty and lots of brambles to avoid (a couple of times I've caught my foot and fallen flat on my face). I like to run through the woods because it is softer on my joints but I was thinking that I will probably have to do the speed training on the road. It's good to know that I am working lots of muscles and that I might be a little faster if I ran on the road!


Thanks for the running planet article swanscot.

Parkbirdy - I did all of c25k off road, in all weathers, it was hard but fun! After falling over in the mud in week 2, I was no longer afraid of falling over. Having now done two 'road' runs since graduating, I find it a quite different experience. Although easier because it's all even surface, I find the repetition of using the same muscles all the time makes me ache more in specific places.

For me, running off road beats pavement beating hands down! And you can alter your route and go off the main paths too, it passes the time very quickly. Glad I'm building core strength too!

Have fun!


HI - I'm a lapsed graduate starting over (in week 6 now - again) I do a lot of my running off road, on forest tracks and trails. It's fab, but I do encourage you to invest in proper shoes - fell running shoes with bit knubby soles, it makes a huge difference, especially when you are kicking a fast downhill.


Hi. I've just completed W8 of the C25K programme and I do most of my running off road. I definitely find it harder than running on the road, but like others have said, I find it more enjoyable and varied.

I'd also echo Jane-M about the shoes. Proper off road shoes make a big difference to the experience and the safety. I'm very clumsy and if there's anything to fall/trip over, I would often do it. However, I've found that running off road has helped me improve this and become less clumsy as it's helped my balance and ability to adjust quickly!


All fantastic advice thanks everyone - if I get a chance to run on trails a bit more will invest. And as someone whose done themselves serious injury walking and tripping on pavement - less clumsy would be good! Felt on trails that I really had to concentrate.


Yep I find the forest tracks harder going but easier mentally as its more interesting. You do have to watch for tree roots, soft muddy bits can be slippy too. They do say a good run should have a mix of surfaces so I have one route that had forest track, road and grass. Out of the 3 grass I find the hardest to run on, then forest track and pavements the easiest. Try a mix if you can, you will feel the difference when you come off grass onto road/pavement especially. Enjoy


You may also like...