A blog by runners. For runners.

Transitioning to outdoor running for spring


It’s official spring! Woohoo.

This winter was brutal (#understatement), sending many runners indoors. To get back to your top racing form, you’ll need to transition back into the great outdoors. But too much treadmill running can make transitioning to roads difficult and – at times – painful.

Here are some tips to ease into your new routine.

Build your base
If you’ve been running on the treadmill a few times a week, consider lengthening the distance of one or two of these runs to build your endurance. You may not feel like it helps tremendously outdoors, but a little extra cardiovascular strength will help with the demands of running on the sidewalks.

Add some hills
You may or may not have been adjusting the incline on your treadmill this winter (research suggests using a “1-2 percent incline [to] simulate the ‘intensity’ of outdoor running”). Now that you’re looking to head outside, you might want to add some hills into your routine. It doesn’t need to be terribly specific, but try simulating rolling hills like you might find in your neighborhood in different time intervals. While you’re at it, consider shifting your pace from time to time – I find when I run outdoors I don’t often keep a steady pace like I do when I’m on the treadmill.

Start short
Once you’re ready to leave the treadmill inside and enter the world again – don’t expect yourself to feel amazing or set any distance goals on your first time out. Instead, try running the distance of your shortest training run and call it a day. (It’s a good idea to map this out with the WalkJogRun App ahead of time so you don’t end up lost or running lots of extra miles!) You’ll notice your form is likely different, so be sure to go at it with an open mind and run at an easy pace. For me, I find my upper-body form tends to get rigid and tight with too much time on the treadmill, so I try and relax my arms and really settle in to a comfortable stride.

Forget your watch
While you’re at it, ditch your timepiece for a while. I always go through a transition period where I run much slower until I acclimate to the roads. Even if it’s only for that first week, running naked (sans watch) will help keep your motivation going strong versus getting too caught up in a numbers game. You’ll surprise yourself later on with how running outdoors makes you feel both strong and swift.

Take heed
Running outdoors entails a few new layers of concern (here’s our Safety Guide) than you had running on the treadmill. Remember to check the weather and dress appropriately – add a water stop to your route if it’s going to be hot. Watch out for cars and bikes. If you wear headphones, set the volume to low so you’re aware of what’s going on around you. And if you’re running in the dark, we have you covered with some tips for how to stay visible and safe. If you can, bring your phone with you in a pocket or some type of active belt.

Written by  Ashley Marcin.