With a long winter almost behind us, chances are you’re itching to get out of treadmill training mode and back to pounding the pavement and running outside. But before you lace up your running shoes for the first outdoor run of the season, there are a few things to consider.
“Running on a treadmill at the gym and running outside are two different experiences,” explains Andrew Frankel, MD, orthopedic surgeon at Paoli Hospital. “Before you jump right back in to outdoor runs, there are a few things you have to consider.”
Below, Dr. Frankel offers tips for getting back into your outdoor running routine.
Know your route
It seems self-explanatory, but it’s worth remembering: Pick a route you’re familiar with before you start. Make sure the area is well-lit and close to home.
You might be eager to get back outside, but pushing yourself too far on your first days and weeks outside can lead to injury. Your muscles will have to work a little harder to keep you moving without the help of a treadmill, and your feet won’t be used to uneven terrain. Take it easy the first few runs and don’t challenge yourself to go too fast or too far. You can pick up the pace and add more miles as your body becomes acclimated to a new surface. Just getting started with a running routine? Dr. Frankel has tips for beginner runners.
Warm up and cool down
The warm-up and cool down cycles on your treadmill are automatic reminders of how important it is to ease your body into and out of a workout. Don’t forget about these when you’re back outside. Regardless of where you’re running, warm up with a five-minute walk and cool down by slowly decreasing your pace. Also, don’t forget to stretch before and after runs to decrease muscle soreness.
Hit the trails…and the weights
It may not seem like strength training and running have much in common, but strong legs and a strong core are key factors when it comes to keeping your balance on a run. Try moves like lunges, squats, planks, and push-ups to strengthen your arms, legs, core, and back muscles. Once or twice a week, try light weightlifting, as well.
If the shoe fits…
…then wear it. If not, you need a new pair. Treat yourself to a new pair of sneakers if yours have logged too many miles on the treadmill. You need footwear that will support and protect your feet and reduce your risk for injury. Not sure if you need a new pair? Take them to a local running store for an evaluation.
Easing yourself back into outdoor runs shouldn’t take long, but don’t rush it. Dr. Frankel cautions runners to stop immediately if they feel pain.