The great thing about running is that you can do it on a lot of different surfaces—though some are better than others. Concrete and asphalt are very popular, but are pretty bad for your joints. Grass, on the other hand, is wonderful to run on. But if you’re like most runners, you probably don’t do it that much.
If that’s the case, this article is for you. We’ll give you all the details about running on grass and why it’s great, but also why you might not want to. We’ll conclude with three types of workouts you can try on the grass.
If you’ve never run on grass before, here are all the reasons to try it. And there are a lot of them!
First and foremost, grass is low impact (unlike concrete and asphalt), which helps with injury prevention. Running on grass puts 9% to 16% less pressure on your feet as compared to asphalt.
If you suffer from impact-related running injuries such as knee pain, IT band syndrome, or hip bursitis, running on grass will make your runs a lot more comfortable. Plus, running on grass can reduce your risk of stress fractures or shin splints.
It makes sense if you think about it. If you bang your head on the grass, it’s going to hurt a lot less than if you do the same thing on concrete or asphalt. Giving your feet a softer surface to run on will keep them healthier. (Needless to say, we have carried out this experiment or at least claim to so you don’t have to. Don’t beat your head on the ground.)
Muscle and Joint Strengthening
At the same time, you’ll also get a great workout in. Because there is not as much elastic force from the impact, your muscles will have to work harder to maintain a constant turnover. You’ll have to pick up your feet more, which will strengthen your muscles and joints.
Great for Older Runners
If you’re a masters runner, you probably are more susceptible to pain from hard surfaces like concrete and asphalt.
Running on grass can give your joints a much needed break from those tough surfaces.
Close to Your Home
Depending on where you live, you might have more grassy areas than pavement nearby. If you have parks or fields in your neighborhood, you can do laps on the grass. If you’re lucky, a couple-minute drive or walk from your house will get you there, making it easy to get a run on the grass in.
Benefits of Uneven Terrain
At first glance, running on uneven terrain doesn’t seem like a great idea. But it is actually really helpful. It improves your balance and requires more strength. If you’re trying to pick up your speed, training on grass will help you do that.
Additionally, the uneven terrain engages the muscles in your feet and legs that aren’t engaged when running on flat surfaces like pavement. You have to be more mentally prepared since the terrain is more varied and isn’t a straight shot.
Builds Mileage and Strength in Pre-Season
The best time to run on the grass is near the beginning of your training cycle. It’s a great way to build strength and mileage.
Obviously, you can always include workouts on the grass later in the training cycle, but it’s a great starting point for a training program.
Improves Running Form
Whenever you run on a softer surface, it benefits your running form because you can’t be sloppy.
Grass is no exception. It will help you develop good form, improving your overall running economy to help you run faster and longer.
Feel More Grounded
No matter how you want to put it, running on the grass is more relaxing than running on the road.
Because grass is something in nature, you will feel more grounded. The benefits of being out in nature as you run on grass will increase feelings of well-being dramatically.
Can Add Some Spice to Your Training
Variety is the spice of life, right? It’s possible to do a plethora of different workouts on grass to break up your training. Plan your fartlek runs, sprints, intervals, and longer, slower runs on the grass. You can also do hill repeats in larger grass areas and even run barefoot if you want!
Allows Your Family to Join In
While you might not be able to talk your family—especially your kids—into running on the track or road, there’s a good chance that you will be able to talk them into running on the grass.
Plus, the kids can play elsewhere on the grass while you do a workout, making it easy for you to get a run in and still watch the kids.
That’s ideal in the summer when you’re likely around your kids more and would like a chance to be barefoot during some of your runs.
Prepares You for Other Sports
Finally, if you play other sports like soccer, running on grass will definitely give you good practice for that season as well. While it’s great to run on the road, being familiar with grass will make you a better player for any sports that are run on grass.
As with anything in life, there are some downsides to running on grass. That being said, we still think that for most people, the pros far outweigh the cons!
Can Lead to Injuries
While grass is low-impact, it can lead to injuries if you’re not careful.
For example, lumpy, uneven grass can cause minor soft tissue issues, and its softness can harm the plantar fascia. Additionally, hidden holes can lead to a twisted, sprained, or even broken ankle.
If you don’t have strong ankles and flexible feet, running on grass can lead to feet and ankle issues like plantar fasciitis.
To avoid injuries, take the time to work up to running longer on the grass, and make sure that your joints and muscles are strong enough.
If you’re trying to get a quick run in, running on the grass is probably not going to be the best option because you won’t be able to go as fast.
It can significantly slow down your running pace – by 15 to 30 seconds per mile at least. So there is a loss of speed and time.
May Need New Shoes
Running on grass may also require new gear. If you have weaker ankles and feet, you may need to purchase shoes with better traction and stability so that you don’t hurt your ankles or feet while running on the grass.
May Not Be Able to Find Enough Grass
Depending on where you live, it could be challenging to find enough grass to run on. Sometimes fields may be used by soccer and football teams for practice, so if you can only fit in a run when that is happening, running on grass might not be an option for you.
Finally, if you struggle with allergies, running on grass could make them worse. While running on grass at any point can cause allergies, you are more likely to get allergies when running on wet grass.
3 Workout Ideas
If you want to get started with some workouts on the grass, here are some ideas depending on your skill level.
For Beginner Runners
If you’re new to running, start with a 10-minute warm-up (slow run) and five minutes of running form/strength exercise. Then do 10 x 100m of speed building (increase pace up until 50-70m and then decrease again). Conclude with a cool down/slow run for five minutes.
For Intermediate Runners
Like the novice workout runner begin with a 10-minute warm up and five minutes of running form/strength exercises. Then do pyramid intervals with a one minute slow recovery jog in between each one.
Start with 1 min fast, and add a minute each interval until you work yourself up to five minutes. Then come back down. End your workout with five minutes of a slow recovery jog.
For Advanced Runners
As with the other two, warm up for 10 minutes, then spend five minutes on running form/strength exercises. The workout is a 3 x 2 mile tempo run at a little bit below your race pace. Recover with a four minute jog in between. Finish with a ten minute cool down.
In the end, running on grass is a great opportunity to channel your inner child and spend a relaxing workout running on a very soft surface. If you’ve been dreading your runs, adding some grass workouts is a great way to add some pep to your step.
While you do need to be aware of the cons, running on grass on the whole is definitely something worth adding to your routine. It will help you get faster, improve your running form, and be low-impact. As a runner, what else could you want?