As a runner, I know full well how different surfaces can impact your body and affect your performance. Although road running is generally easier, mainly owing to it being a smoother static surface, hard tarmac can be incredibly unforgiving on the joints. Trail running on the other hand, is usually softer, but there are the added trip hazards of tree roots, stony paths and squelchy mud to contend with.
But did you know it’s not just outdoor ground that need to be considered? No, the surface on which you workout at the gym, doing yoga, weights, team sports etc. can make a huge difference too.
First and foremost you need to consider the type of exercise you do versus the desired intensity of that particular workout. For example, soft surfaces such as sand, grass or even a man made polymer based material can help reduce the risk of injury – come on it doesn’t take a scientist to work out it’s going to hurt less if you fall over on sand than if you fall on concrete! But not only that, softer surfaces, particularly those with what I call the ‘bounce factor’ can make you feel better grounded, better supported and therefore more confident in what you are doing and that ultimately leads to higher achievements.
For exercise such as Pilates, Yoga and Martial Arts, balance is absolutely crucial and yes although developing a strong core is of course a major factor, the type of ground beneath you definitely makes a difference. If you do this type of exercise at home in your carpeted living room, try placing a foam mat down instead and notice the changes in your body; does it affect your balance, how’s your posture, is it easier, do you feel stronger, more supported?
The type of surface you workout on is ultimately up to you, and personal preference does of course come into play here. However, if you are prone to a particular injury, or if you’re starting to feel a niggle, or perhaps feel as though sometimes you’re not performing at your best, taking a look at environmental factors, such as the ground beneath your feet, could provide you with the answer you’re looking for.