As excited as you may be to finally take your running workouts back into the great outdoors again, the transition may not exactly be seamless. While you’re anticipating the arrival of spring, check out these tips that will help you safely and effectively get your outdoor running workouts back on track.
Signing up to run with a group of local runners is an easy first step that can instantly help to re-ignite your enthusiasm for running. For example, REI’s Outdoor School offers several different clubs and classes for runners of all different abilities and at local levels, including general running clubs, trail running classes, race-specific training series, and even classes focused specifically on helping runners get “back on track.”
“Try a new trail or park—see what has changed during your indoor hibernation,” says elite marathoner and registered dietitian Kaye Anne Starosciak. Seeking new scenery can help to re-inspire your love for running, plus if you can find a soft dirt trail to run on, it could also benefit your body. “Any marathoner can tell you that the recovery time from running on pavement versus running on trails is significantly longer,” says Isabel Rivera, a ultra-runner and author of The Running Teacher. “Pavement has more resistance. Start by enjoying the views at some of your local trails to ease into running outdoors again.”
Not only can a clean, fresh pair of running shoes help you to muster up some new motivation, but if you’ve been running on the treadmill in your current shoes, for safety’s sake, it may be time for an upgrade anyway. “Stop by your local running store to have your shoes checked out, as the wear from treadmill running will be different than the wear from road running,” says Rivera. Or as Starosciak put it, you may just be in need of some “fresh cushioning to attack the pavement.”
If you’re into running with a large group or there are no local running clubs available to you, try running with friends instead. Essentially, you can form your own “running club,” even if it’s just you and one other buddy. Set up a regular schedule and meet once or even a few times each week so that you’ll have something to look forward to and a workout partner to help hold you accountable.
“Running on a treadmill is different from running on pavement,” says Rivera. “To ease the transition, move your shorter, weekday runs outside before moving your long runs outside.”
Rivera says there are two reasons that you should keep the pace slow and steady when transitioning back to running outside. First, because your pace on the treadmill is not equivalent to your pace on the pavement; “Pace differs depending on the surface,” she explained. “Your ten-minute-mile on the treadmill will not equate to a ten-minute-mile on pavement.” And second, because it may take some time for your body to re-adjust to the different surface. “It will take time to get used to pavement again,” Rivera said. “Not only because of the change in surface but also because of the changes in elevation. Take walk breaks as needed and start with easy-paced runs.”
“Do some dynamic stretching before pounding the pavement,” says Karena Wu, a nationally recognized physical therapist and owner of ActiveCare Physical Therapy in New York City. “That means active movement, which can increase your range of motion, muscle and tendon flexibility, and circulation. It warms your skeletal muscles up and gets them prepped for the repetitive contract-relax requirements of the movement.”
The amount of running-specific apps available both for iPhone and Android is seemingly endless, and pretty much every single one was designed to help keep runners motivated. You can track your routes and miles, use music to set your pace, and even participate in virtual races, all through the one piece of gear you probably already have: your smartphone.
“Eighty percent of experienced runners who finished the ODDyssey Half Marathon responded that the best way for them to stay motivated with running is to sign up for a race,” says Carl Ewald, executive director of the ODDyssey Half Marathon in Philadelphia. “Once they make that commitment, their motivation is increased and they train better.” He says there’s at least one 5k every weekend in most urban areas, so finding a race in or around your area shouldn’t be a huge challenge. “Pick your favorite one and sign up,” he said. “Once you are signed up, you are in training mode.”