Transitioning from mainly in-gym or in-home workouts to outdoor experiences is simply liberating. No matter how much you enjoy your indoor workouts, there’s something totally different about getting out and breathing deeply in the fresh air.
However, after a winter of breaking a sweat on the treadmill, transitioning straight into outdoor runs can be easier said than done. It’s happened to many of us: you get super excited for your first outdoor run of the season, speed off into the distance, and struggle to finish your distance because you started out too fast.
The excitement is totally understandable (and pretty fun, we might add)! But there are better ways to get in a more effective workout when you’re first starting outdoors for the season.
First, you need to give yourself time to adjust to the new outdoor terrain. The treadmill and stationary bike are wonderful, but they tend to be easier than the outdoors due to their consistency and soft grounding. Start off slow and allow your body time to adjust to the challenging outdoor terrain (think hills, potholes, people in your way, etc.) before pushing yourself too far.
Exercising outside requires more agility: with people, cars, bikes, and street signs getting your way, chances are you’re going to have to move a bit more nimbly than the treadmill affords. Beware of your ankles – and again, run a bit slower than normal – to adjust to these roadblocks and ensure you stay injury-free.
When you’re running outside, particular parts of your body take on more impact than they would indoors. For instance, because the treadmill offers more bounce than the pavement, it protects your shins; shin splints can occur when running outside thanks to the increased pressure. Suddenly, your legs need to work harder to go the same distance, and your shins take a beating. Same with your hip flexors and hamstrings: the treadmill primarily engages your quads, but doesn’t do as good of a job with those areas. While your quads may feel strong enough to run miles, your hip flexors and hamstrings will suffer if you push too hard.
On another note, just because it’s nice enough to run outside, doesn’t mean that’s all you can do within your weekly workout routine. Altering your daily workouts is key to avoiding injury and strengthening different muscles that positively affect your overall health. Strength training in particular is key to keeping your body healthy and without injury. Be sure to incorporate some strength work into your week –whether its at the gym with weights or in the park with your bodyweight – to stay in the best shape possible.
When working out in the great outdoors, it’s always best to stay prepared: dress for the weather, always hydrate, and plan your route ahead of time to make sure you don’t get lost on a surprise 10-miler. At the end of the day, though, it’s all about how your body feels. So listen to it! It’s the best thing you can do stay fit – no matter what the season.