After the very harsh winter that most of North America dealt with in one way or another, spring is the welcome season to get outside and shake off the cabin fever. If you’ve been working out at the gym, taking a class in a studio, or even just banging it out in your basement, fresh air is calling you, and Mother Nature has lots of ways for you to exercise outdoors.
Probably the easiest way to do so is with running, since it’s essentially just lacing up some sneakers and leaving the house. You need very little equipment–if any–and it’s completely free. Even better is that running gives you the chance to switch things up every day you exercise. What you see, where you run, and the pace you set can all create a lot of variety for your routine.
However, if you haven’t run in a while–or at all–pounding the pavement might be a tad disappointing if you aren’t properly prepared both physically and mentally. Before you head out to feel the wind in your hair, try these tips to get your running routine on the right track.
Walk Before You Run: If you’re relatively new to running, or haven’t done it in a while, it’s best to prep your joints and stabilizer muscles with walking. This isn’t meant to be a Sunday stroll, but more a power walk so that you can get your body moving and the blood flowing. Walking is a great a warm-up, but if you’ve been really couch bound for the past few months, walking might be more than enough cardio to start.
Start Slow: Remember the classic fable of The Tortoise and the Hare? Well, get ready to do your best turtle impression. If you come out running too quickly–no matter what your pace or mile time once was–you’ll exhaust yourself quickly and likely find yourself winded before one block’s been run. Instead, look for an easy rate where you can still talk–even if it’s just to yourself.
Introduce Intervals: Sprinting three miles your first time out might not be realistic. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t cover the same distance at a slower pace. Switch up walking, jogging, running, and sprinting over a set area. Use a watch, landmarks, or blocks to determine when to do each. For example, walk for two minutes, jog for one minute, and sprint for 15 seconds, and then repeat. Or, walk for four blocks, jog for two blocks, and sprint for a half a block. Intervals will help you build up your running abilities, and once you establish a routine, can help you to increase your speeds and burn more fat in shorter amounts of workout time.
Set Small Goals: If you’ve always wanted to run a marathon, but can barely make it to the corner and back, set a small goal that is obtainable. The marathon can come later and can be on your running bucket list, but in the near future, it might feel insurmountable–thus making it easier to give up on. Instead look toward achieving shorter distances that are still challenging, but doable with time and effort.
Get Some Help: Running may be mostly a solo sport, but that doesn’t mean you’re all alone. There are lots of great running programs available that can help you get more out of your miles. If you want to stay on your own, try the Couch to 5K program, which plans out every day of each workout week to help you build up toward running a 3.1 mile race. If you’re motivated by other people, sign up for a running class to train for local event or just to tweak your technique. Who knows, you might find the perfect running buddy for non-class days. Need some one-on-one coaching? Work with a personal trainer. He or she can help you build up your stamina with complementary exercises while also be by your side when running around town.
There’s nothing stopping you now–you’re ready to run. Get outside and show those streets what you’re made of!
What is your favorite way to exercise outside? Share with us in the comments.