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Running Transitions for Spring

Written by Adam Dollar, LPTA
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As the weather gradually warms and the snow begins to melt, runners stray away from their treadmills and flock to the sidewalks and trails. While the fresh air may feel great during your run outdoors, our bodies may not be prepared for the transition. Unfortunately, running on the treadmill does not adequately prepare us for a run outdoors. Here are some facts to be aware of as you begin your outdoor training.

The first difference to be aware of in your transition from the treadmill to the outdoors is the variance in terrain. Obviously, while running on a treadmill, there is little worry of running into obstacles during your run. However, while running outdoors, there are many terrain variances to be aware of including the following:

  • Hills demanding increased exertion
  • Ice and snow patches during the early spring months
  • Uneven ground if running on trails

Additionally, when transitioning between the treadmill and the outdoors, pacing is a major change to consider. A treadmill is very convenient when trying to keep a certain pace as you can set the pace to a certain mile per hour and proceed with your run without any fluctuation in speed. However, when running outdoors, speed and pacing are completely dependent on your ability to maintain through your run. This process takes practice through multiple runs outdoors.

With these variances in mind, you can begin to transition your running safely from the treadmill to the outdoors. Here are some additional tips to safely complete the transition:

Reduce Durations – If you want to skip the treadmill all together, you can begin your outdoor runs with shorter durations to get used to the extra exertion required. This technique will also help as you get used to maintaining your own pace.

Slow Transitions – You can begin this technique by alternating between the treadmill and outdoors. Start your running outdoors with shorter runs that do not involve too many hills.

Increase Treadmill Grade – This technique is especially beneficial when the weather is not cooperating. By increasing the grade of your treadmill by several degrees, you can simulate the extra exertion that would be required in running outdoors.

With this information in mind, we can all practice a safe return to outdoor running – whether to continue the pursuit of healthy living or in preparation for summer racing. If you have further questions or want more specific instruction on running progressions, contact one of the physical therapists at your local resource for running, The Center for Physical Rehabilitation. 

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