HIlary Stellingwerff hiking at Elk Lake.
Yesterday morning I ran 20 minutes at 6:30 a.m. at 6:00 per km pace, nearly 90 seconds slower than my pre-pregnancy easy run pace, and enjoyed every second of it. As I ran down my street on this beautiful spring day, I was drenched in morning sunrise and greeted by melodic birds. I hopped on the Elk Lake forest trail, following it along the rushing stream that lead me to the lake and main trail, which I had all to myself that morning. I heard, saw and smelled nature, exactly the senses and feelings that bring me outside each day, no matter what the weather, to run, no matter what the pace: I’m addicted to biophilia.

Biophilia is the love of life or living systems. It’s the deep affiliation humans have with nature. Studies of biophilia say that experience in or with nature can have positive benefits on health and well-being. Some suggest that contact with nature can help reduce stress and improve mental restoration and help people positively cope with attention deficit (1).

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Perhaps this explains why the world of trail running has recently taken off. Personally, I have always enjoyed running outside on trails so much more than inside on a treadmill. I suspect I’m not alone in this.

HIlary Stellingwerff hiking at Elk Lake.

I’m eight months into pregnancy and my running has definitely slowed down in recent weeks. I’ve had to substitute outdoor running with indoor cross-training, like pool running and elliptical training. Although both are great forms of exercise, and much easier on the body because they are less weight bearing, I still find myself craving being outside in the forest. Instead of slugging out an hour inside, I alternate running and cross-training or split longer runs into two shorter runs or hikes, since I can’t comfortably run more than 30 minutes at a time. This way, I still get my biophilia fix a few times a week.

As the weather starts to get nice, I would definitely recommend anyone who is used to doing most of their running inside try a run outside in a park or on trails. Don’t get too caught up in your pace, as more technical or soft terrain will slow you down. Instead, focus on effort, heart rate and breathing as your gauges.

These same markers have been my gauges lately, which is a nice change from being so focused on times and splits on the track. Overall, I’m not complaining because, somehow, even with the extra 25lbs I’m carrying, I am still happily running and haven’t had any injuries. I like to think of it as functional weight training. Just two months to go!


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