Most of us feel ready to get back outdoors as soon as the winter weather finally breaks. Moving outdoors from the safety of the treadmill in a heated gym is a transitional challenge. Early spring cold temperatures, rain and wind are just some of the obstacles we face, as well as a variety of surfaces, unlike the constant treadmill. Despite the varying spring time weather conditions, running outdoors is a revitalizing freedom. Keep in mind the following 5 tips and you will make the change to outdoor running without difficulty and remain injury free. Inspect your running shoes. Transitioning to outdoor running is a good time to replace those worn shoes. Walk into any running shoe store and have the sales clerk check the soles of your shoes for wear patterns, especially the heel. A new pair of running shoes will lessen the impact of adjusting to the different outdoor running surfaces. Maybe buy a second pair. Having a second pair of running shoes to rotate will help both pairs last longer and maintain their bounce. Your feet, legs and knees will thank you for it.
Consider mixing up running surfaces and terrain. Run on trails and grass when you can to give your body a much needed break from all that pounding from running on the roads and sidewalks. By mixing it up you will begin to notice a strengthening in your ankle and knee stability. Running hills while working on good running form also helps develop muscles unused while logging all those treadmill miles. Lean into the hills, pump your arms and lift your knees. Open your stride on the down hills.
Start slow. Like they say “Rome wasn’t built in a day”. Start out with 3 days a week with no more than a 10% increase from week to week in time or mileage. Walk on your off days. Remember you have been running on a treadmill for a few months. You are slowly adjusting to outdoor running without injury. A day off in between your running days is a good way to recover, letting your body slowly adapt to the changes. Later, when you are running 5 days a week, make 2 of your days easy effort days. Recovery days should always follow those harder running days.
Make stretching a part of your running routine. Before you run make sure you do a 5-10 minute warm up jog. Do a cool down jog after your run, followed by 15-20 minutes of light stretching. Don’t bounce, slowly stretch. I am a believer in stretching after the workout, not before. The body responds easier to stretching when the muscles and tendons are warmed up.'
Stay hydrated. Even if it is the early spring and weather temperatures are comfortable, but the body still requires hydration. Rule of thumb is to take in fluids every 20 minutes. You don’t need to drink a lot of fluid. No one wants that slushing feeling you get. Staying hydrated is good practice for those hot summer months just around the corner. You will get much more out of your running when the body is hydrated.
Enjoy running outdoors and stay injury free.
Kevin P. Lucas has been coaching runners for 30 years.