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4 Tips to Prep for Outdoor Running This Spring

Publish Date: Mon, March 05, 2018 - 10:04:00


By: Danny Fleener, PT, MPT, CMPT, OCS

1. Don’t just hit the ground running: Exercise caution when taking your run outdoors

As the temperatures start going up, runners who have been cooped up in the gym all winter will finally have the chance to start running outside again. However, it’s not as simple as taking your treadmill workout and mapping it out on the sidewalk. It’s important that runners at all levels consider the differences between indoor and outdoor running workouts in order to avoid injury.


2. Remember indoor and outdoor running are not the same

There are plenty of differences between running on a treadmill and running on pavement. The act itself is a different motion. On a treadmill, the belt pulls your feet backward whereas natural running requires you to push off the ground in order to propel yourself forward, making it a more difficult workout. That also means that you aren’t using the exact same set of muscles, so be sure to warm up well before and cool down and stretch after workouts and be mindful of the stress you’re putting on your body.

Besides the difference in form, there are a variety of other factors that distinguish treadmill running with natural running. One of these involves pace. Unlike on a treadmill, you can’t automatically set a pace when you run on pavement—you have to manually work at maintaining that pace. You also lose the uniformity of the surface underfoot. Wind, elevation, ground reaction and surface texture all change during a run outdoors.


3. How to make a healthy transition

All of these differences require adaptation from your body. Luckily, your body is good at adjusting to this change, but it does take time. If you have been stuck inside all winter, it’s not recommended that you try to start at the same level you’re used to. We know you’re itching to be out in the fresh air, but transition by running some of your workouts outside and some inside. This is the best way to prevent injury—you can’t run anywhere with a tear or exacerbated injury.

When you do run outside, be smart. Remember that surfaces won’t always be even, temperatures may fluctuate and the elements can take a toll on your body. Be sure to be well-hydrated and wear sunscreen. Proper, safe running is more than just throwing on your shoes and hitting the pavement.


4. What to do when your workout hurts

If you experience pain when running, don’t push through it. More is not always better. For example, healthy running will not wear out your knees—that happens when runners push too hard. If you run with music, turn it off in order to focus on and listen to your body when you experience discomfort. Be sure to give yourself enough rest between exercises so your body can recover, and try a cross-training or strengthening program, like swimming and biking, to prevent over-working the same muscle set.

If the pain persists, be sure to see your physical therapist here at Rock Valley Physical Therapy. You may need a program adjustment! Nice weather is on the way, and we’re happy to help you enjoy it to the fullest!​

Danny Fleener is located in our Moline, IL - Avenue of the Cities office. To make an appointment with Danny, call our office at 309-743-0106.

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