Pound­ing pave­ment is dead. This is the era of the off-road run­ner – whether that’s hit­ting a trail 10K, prep­ping for ob­sta­cle race sea­son, or just head­ing out in search of ad­ven­ture. Grab your shoes and get ready to off-road

Men's Fitness - - Features - Words Joel Snape

Whether you’re a gym bro, pave­ment pounder or ded­i­cated couch surfer, you owe it to your­self to em­brace the great out­doors. And not just in some hippy-dippy, back-to-Mother-Na­ture sense ei­ther. In a 2015 study, Stan­ford Uni­ver­sity re­searchers found that vol­un­teers who ex­er­cised in a nat­u­ral set­ting - as op­posed to an ur­ban one – not only re­ported de­creased anx­i­ety and de­pres­sive thoughts, but ac­tu­ally showed de­creased neu­ral ac­tiv­ity in ar­eas of the brain as­so­ci­ated by men­tal ill­ness. Re­searchers the­o­rise that nat­u­ral set­tings feel less threat­en­ing and turn off our evolved stress re­sponse, but there might be more to it than that. “The ground be­neath your feet de­mands 100% of your at­ten­tion,” says run­ning coach Ge­orge An­der­son. “It’s the per­fect mind­ful­ness prac­tice. Ev­ery step needs care­ful con­sid­er­a­tion.” And, of course, your body will also reap the ben­e­fits, ad­just­ing to the de­mands for core and hip sta­bil­i­sa­tion that come from run­ning on un­even ter­rain.

In short: it’s the sea­son to hit the trail. But don’t just throw on your most beaten-up train­ers and head out to the near­est wilder­ness – that’s the path to in­jury. We’ve as­sem­bled an ev­ery­man’s guide to get­ting out­side your com­fort zone, from tak­ing your first (tiny) steps to com­pet­ing in your first race. Thank us when you’re breath­ing that sweet, oxy­genated air.

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