The best thing for your running, may be going back to your roots–literally and figuratively. According to a 2018 study in Frontiers in Physiology, children are the best endurance athletes. For many trail runners, this is unsurprising. Running in the trails can often feel playful and kid-like. Trails provide opportunities for being present without the worries of adult life. So, if you’re stuck in a running rut, view it as playing rather than training.
The study found physiological similarities between children and well-trained endurance athletes. With endurance activities such as running, cycling, and hopping, the study compared the metabolic and fatigue profiles of prepubertal children and endurance athletes. Children were shown to experience less muscular fatigue and more neural fatigue in comparison to adult endurance athletes.
Train like a kid, play like a trail runner
Good news for trail runners, as running in the forest and mountains can make us feel like a kid again. The study may help explain why children can often have the energy and desire to play long after adults begin to feel tired. In the study, children utilized more of their aerobic metabolism, which made them less tired in comparison to the athletic adults. Many children can play forever, which mimics the life of an endurance trail runner.
Recover like a kid
The study also showed how quickly children recovered by their heart-rate and ability to remove blood lactate. The post-exercise recovery kinetics of oxygen uptake and heart rate were similar, or at times faster in prepubertal children than well-trained adult endurance athletes. In comparison to adults in general, their recovery was much faster. This may help explain children’s ability to postpone fatigue.
Whether children are the ideal endurance athletes, or trail runners have figured out the secret to training, the study may help us understand why running in the trails feels so fun. Endurance is kid-like in itself. Focus on the forest, and training may make you feel like you’re a kid again.