The weather is getting nice and you may have been bitten by the "run bug." To make the transition from indoor runs to the great outdoors seamless and safe, I compiled a list of my top five tricks to get the most out of your outdoor run. Whether you have had some success running on the treadmill, or you are completely new to outdoor running, there are two crucial factors that you must understand.
First, let's talk about a little guy named Newton. See, Newton has this law that states that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Are you with me so far? Good. Well, with runners, the concern is what we run on. The harder the surface the greater the ground reaction force, which is basically the force exerted by the ground back onto the body (in this case, our little legs) that are in contact with it, is. To simplify this, surfaces like concrete and pavement will cause a greater reaction back into our joints and legs than an energy absorbing treadmill. This not only makes us to work harder, but will tire us out faster and cause greater stress on our joints.
Second, the treadmill is a flat belt that provides consistency with each step. There are no stones, traffic, or inclement weather activity that would cause you to be off balance or have to change your gait. Running outdoors forces the body to make constant small adjustments. That said, here is what’s going to make your outdoor run a successful one.
1. Don't be led by aesthetics: It doesn’t matter how good sneakers may look with your running gear, it’s about what they are meant to do: protect, support, cushion, and stabilize your foot when it makes contact with the ground. Choosing the proper sneaker for your foot is imperative. To take the guesswork out of what shoe works best for you, you have to have a clear understanding of your foot. To do this, simply moisten the bottom of your bare foot and step on a brown paper bag. Trace along the outline of the footprint and bring it to your local running specialty store. Your foot map will provide the in-store specialist the information he or she needs to find the correct sneaker for you.
2. Take hold: Your body will be working harder outdoors and this may cause your chest to rise and fall at a stronger rate. To keep your body protected, choose a sports bra that holds each breast in a separate cup to reduce bounce and increase support. I recommend checking out the following sites: movingcomfort.com and lululemon.com for a few good options.
3. Hit the weights: Lifting weights probably is not your top priority if you’re hitting the trails, but think of it like this: a runner with strong legs and good stamina with a core and upper extremities that are weak is not providing his or her body with complete fitness balance. To get your body in balance strength training is key. Basic body weight moves like plank holds, push ups, and wall sits or weighted protocols such as lunges and squats will enhance muscle strength and general conditioning, while, armoring your body against fatigue and injury. Set aside a minimum of 20 minutes a week to focus on general strength training for maximum benefits.
4. Have a plan: Whether you are stepping out of your house for the first time or picking up from you left off in the fall, your first action should be with your hand. Write down your daily goals and focus! This, may sound like I am trying to complicate the simple joy of running, however, each step should be positive forward progression and that starts with your written commitment. Here’s an example: day 1: Goal – 30-minute run around loop. Once you’ve done the workout write: Completed. Light rain. Felt good. When you confirm your goal and commit yourself to a plan there is immediate action taken and greater joy when you can go back and see what you have completed, how you felt, and how you are growing as a runner. Many bookstores sell running logs, or you can keep track of your running schedule in your daily planner.
5. Put some music in your ears: Did you know that the wrong choice of music may actually put a damper on your runs? It's true. Researchers have found the blood vessels of exercisers subjected to music they didn't like constricted six percent in just 30 minutes, reducing overall aerobic capacity by more than 10 percent. When exercisers listened to favorable music their blood vessels expanded 26 percent bringing in a 34 percent performance boost.