Remember being a child running around outside? Running on a big, grassy field makes sense even if you aren’t playing tag.
Not only is grass a softer surface, which is an excellent way to reduce the chances of an impact-related injury, but grass workouts will improve overall balance as well as strengthen your feet and ankles.
Balance is developed on grass as it requires the smaller muscles of our legs to respond to the uneven surface. This softer surface also requires more strength to run quickly, and you will burn more calories too.
If you’ve never run on grass before, consider supplementing training on asphalt with training on grass. Week by week for one month, end one run with 10 minutes on the softer terrain. Don’t try to do too much too soon, and it is best not to run barefoot right away as that can exacerbate plantar fasciitis.
Is there a good time to do speed workouts on grass? Grass running is probably best when emphasizing strength and endurance, not speed. If you’re a marathoner or half marathoner, grass runs should be done in the early phase of your training when you are building strength.
It should be mentioned that morning dew on grass can be very slick even though it may look dry, so take care to know the terrain where you are running and be on the lookout for hidden rocks or holes.
Here are two tough grass workouts that help with balance, strength and overall performance that are worth trying once you have found a field.
Grass interval run
Begin your run with 15-20 minutes of running on grass. Once you trust the grass location where you’re running is dry and safe, sprint on the grass for 3-4 minutes as hard as possible. Follow this with a 2 minute recovery and allow your heart rate to slow. Work up to two or three more sets of the sprint and recovery interval run. Cool down further with 10 minutes of easy running or walking on grass.
Grass endurance run
Warm up with 15-20 minutes of easy running on grass. Run one mile at your normal running speed on grass with a brief one minute recovery. Try doing this initially four times and gradually work up to six times. Cool down with 10-15 minutes of easy running or walking on grass.
Soft green grass running may or may not be nostalgic, but it is a valuable way to train and stay motivated!
Dr. Darryl Tannenbaum is a board-certified orthopedic surgeon with Columbus Regional Health’s Joint and Spine Center and Southern Indiana Orthopedics. He is a graduate of Harvard Medical School and completed his orthopedic surgery residency at University of Michigan. Tannenbaum has run in more than 20 races, completing marathons in places that include Boston, Berlin, London, Antarctica and Tokyo.