Spring is finally here! Daylight Savings is behind us and that means people all over the country are getting back into outdoor activities after taking the winter off. Everyone is hitting the ground running after months off, but you need to remember there is always a risk of injury when returning to activity after taking a break. It is important to be aware that with rest comes a decreased tolerance to the level of activity you were last doing. When the time comes to start running again, it is essential to ease into it. Here are some tips to return to the outdoors without injury.
The first step is REST. Remember that it is alright to take some time off. Time off gives your body time to recharge and rejuvenate your motivation. With that said, rest during training is also imperative to recovery. You might think you need to make up for lost time, but this is absolutely wrong. Take your time and rest when you need.
Next, make sure you take it slow and steady. You can start with just a few miles of walking or even walking/running if you feel ready. Your bones, muscles, and connective tissues all need time to readjust, recover, and strengthen after each time out. For at least three weeks, think about performing short, slow runs on soft surfaces. Think 30-60 seconds per mile slower than your previous pace. If you don’t know your pace, make sure you can carry on a conversation while running—this will keep you at an easy pace. Don’t let the feeling of fresh air and the wind in your hair let you push yourself too far or too fast. Even if you worked out during the winter, running requires different muscles than other activities. In fact, even running on the treadmill can be very different than running outside.
When it comes time to progress your training, think about either working on speed or working on distance. You should not address both at the same time, as this can lead to injury. Over a 4-week period, progressively increase either one with adequate rest in between each session.
Lastly, listen to your body. Take a day or two off if you feel any worrisome pains pop up. Having a little restraint at this stage can save you from requiring a longer break to recover from an injury. Walk if you need to. Your body is truly your best teacher.
Best of luck running!