Tips for transitioning to outdoor running

Spring is in the air. Birds are singing, flowers are blooming and runners are, well, running. Running coach Bruce Raymer shares his tips for transitioning your run from indoors to outside. Getty Images

Spring is in the air. Birds are singing, flowers are blooming and runners are, well, running.

It’s a time when many runners make the transition from treadmill to tarmac (and yes, some never left the great outdoors when the temperature dropped).

However, for first-time runners and those grown accustomed to treadmills, taking on parks and sidewalks after a long winter isn’t always a simple task.

Bruce Raymer is a Durham-based running coach. He shared some tips for transitioning from indoor to outdoor running.

Be mindful of the shift in running surfaces.

Concrete and asphalt are less forgiving surfaces than treadmills. Raymer said he slowly transitions his clients to ease them into it. “They’ll still do treadmill stuff, but they’ll be introduced to a few runs a week outdoors, just until the muscles harden up and they get more fit, because it’s definitely harder on the body,” he said. “Often too what I like to do is keep them on a softer surface when I’m transitioning them outdoors.”

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Give your body time to adjust.

Running outside uses more muscles than running on a treadmill. “All those little stabilizer muscles that you don’t really normally use on a treadmill because the treadmill is so forgiving and so absolutely flat, as you transition outside on to roads and paths and trails, you’re going to get a lot more undulating terrain and with that you’re going to start incorporating and bringing in different muscles,” said Raymer.

Dress appropriately.

Spring is a time of transition, and the weather goes up and down. Raymer strongly encourages layers. “You want to have a base layer and then usually like two layers and perhaps a jacket, that way you can take off a layer if it gets too warm.”

Stay hydrated.

Raymer’s rule of thumb for water intake is 200-500 mL an hour. “That generally will replace what you’re losing in sweat outdoors,” he said.

Safety first.

Raymer encourages runners to wear reflective gear at night, to keep to well lit paths, and stay away from hedges and bushes. “Vary your running routes, that’s especially important with women, don’t always take the same route,” he said. He recommends letting someone know where you’re going on your run, and said there are great apps that let loved ones track a runner’s progress.

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Keep it loose.

“You should probably have a good stretching program too, especially when you’re first starting out,” he said.

First timers: take it slow.

Raymer’s “newbies,” as he calls them, follow a program of running one minute, then walking one minute, to ease into it. “And then just going back and forth like that, until either the running segments become longer and/or you shorten up the walking breaks.”

The key is to not try to do too much all at once.

Raymer shared some parting words of advice for aspiring runners. “An average person can’t go much more than 15 minutes tops without stopping, so lots of times people get discouraged and they give up because they kind of hit what I call the 15 or 20 minute wall. But you can punch through that wall if you have frequent walk breaks. And eventually the walking segments will become shorter until you’re essentially just running the whole way.”

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