Winter is on the way out – hooray – and it’s time to start thinking about returning to exercising outdoors again as many of us, and rightly so, prefer to work out indoors in the cold and wet weather.
For a lot of exercisers, this means returning to running and, maybe, even entering some fun runs or more competitive running events such as half-marathons or even the full 26.2 marathon.
This article is not, however, about training for a marathon. It’s to help you transition from indoor exercise to running outdoors again after your winter hibernation. While you could just head out the door and run, you increase your risk of injury if you do not prepare yourself at least a little prior to returning to running. Following the advice in this article will make your return to running outdoors quicker, safer and easier.
Add some impact
If you have been doing mostly low or non-impact exercise over the winter, using a rowing machine or exercise bike for example, your body will be less accustomed to the impact of running than usual. Losing your ability to deal with impact can mean your first few runs leave your feet, ankles, knees, hips, and lower back sore.
Remedy this by introducing some impact into your indoor workouts before your return to running. For example, add a few minutes of jump rope to your workouts, do some box, vertical, or standing long jumps, or simply do some jogging on the spot.
These exercises will increase foot, ankle, knee, and hip strength so that, when you head out for your first run, your joints are better prepared for the shock of running. Ease into impact training as doing too much too soon could lead to joint pain in the same way running too far, too soon would.
If you have been doing a lot of treadmill running lately, it’s important that you don’t try and replicate your indoor workouts outside. Running on a treadmill is very different to running outside. When you run on a treadmill, the belt is literally pulled under your feet and the running bed absorbs a lot of the impact.
Running out doors, in contrast, requires that you push and pull yourself forward and, while your shoes absorb a small amount of impact, your joints bear the brunt of it.
Make the move from running indoors to running outdoors gradually. Do this by doing one outdoor run during week one, two outdoor runs during week two, three outdoor runs in week three and so on. Alternatively, run on your treadmill as usual but then finish your workout with a brief run outside. Gradually decrease the length of your indoor runs while increasing the length of your outdoor runs over several weeks.
However you do it, exercise patience as you transition from indoor to outdoor workouts will maintain your fitness while preparing your body for the rigors of “real” running.
Drop a few pounds
Many people gain a few pounds during the winter. The festive season, less exercise, and stodgier winter food can mean that your waistline and your weight increase. Running puts a lot of stress on your bones and joints and the heavier you are, the greater that stress will be. It is estimated that you hit the ground with three-times your bodyweight each and every step that you run and reducing this loading will reduce your risk of injury.
Start cutting out the starchy carbs and sugar and eating more protein and vegetables to reduce your weight easily and quickly. Combined with regular exercise, you should soon find your weight decreases and running becomes less impactful and easier.
A very effective way to ease back into outdoor running is to follow a walk-run-walk program. As you would expect, this simply involves alternating between walking and running. As you become fitter, simply walk less and run more until, after several weeks of training, you are able to run continually.
Walk-run-walk programs are a great way to take the pain out of running. The walking provides an active rest from running while still keeping your heart and breathing rate elevated. Really stride out during the walking sections of your workout – don’t slack off! Use your arms and walk with purpose.
Running IS a great way to exercise but you need to be fit and healthy enough to do it safely. Making sure you are fit to run will help make your running workouts more productive and enjoyable as well as reducing your risk of injury.