1. Stretch It Out
If you’re a runner, you understand that you need to stretch. But do you understand why you stretch, and do you know when to stretch?
Stretching is a way of taking advantage of the warmth in your muscles to make them more flexible. To be able to do that, you need warm muscles to start with, which means you should not stretch your muscles when you’re cold. And when are you generally the coldest? Right before a run.
You’re much better off doing pre-run warmup exercises, light jogs or high-stepping sprints, as opposed to stretches. And when you do stretch, you want to do gentle stretches as opposed to intense ones, and you don’t need to hold muscles at their breaking point for minutes at a time to get the benefits of stretching. Thirty seconds is a maximum hold time for most stretches.
Ease into your stretches, relax, breathe, and take advantage of your muscles’ elasticity.
2. Dress For the Weather
It’s hard to say any single season in Wisconsin is more fickle than any other, but spring might be the most variable season of all. Weather conditions can change from hour to hour, and that wind!
Complicating matters are two factors:
- It generally is going to be colder than you think it should be …
- … until it isn’t.
If you’re going to be doing a lot of springtime running, it’s important to wear layers, but also have a way and a place to stow layers when you get too warm. You’re probably not going to be running far, carrying a windbreaker in your hand.
3. Time to Re-Tire
Spring is the perfect season to break in a new pair of shoes and ditch the old pair. Most people wait too long to change their shoes, waiting for visual cues like torn uppers and worn-out soles, when the real problems are internal breakdowns. Insoles can break down and forefoot and midfoot support can weaken.
Running shoes are generally only good for about 300-400 miles. If you think your shoes may have reached their limits, invest in a new pair — they will cost less than medical visits or physical therapy appointments.
4. Work Into Distances
No matter how much treadmill time you may have put in over the winter, it’s not the same as running outside. Road surfaces differ, and may be harder on joints and muscles than a rotating rubber belt. You may find yourself expending more effort to cover the same distances.
Don’t think that because you ran five eight-minute miles on the treadmill last week that you’ll be able to do the same thing on the road. Keep your expectations modest initially, and work into distances.
Just as if you were running a race, going out too fast too long is going to have damaging effects. You have all summer; take it easy to start with.
5. Remember Your Posture
Treadmills are great for many things running-related, but one thing they’re not good at is encouraging good running posture. Slumped shoulders and a head-down running position can make it harder to breathe when you run — and who needs breathing to be harder when they run?
To combat this, keep your shoulders back and head up when you run. One more advantage to running with your head up: you get a better chance to see the world go by. And isn’t that part of the reason why you run?
6. Take It Easy With Injuries
Early-season running can lead to injuries, and early-season running injuries are the worst because they tend to linger. Everyone wants to push through a little bit of pain, but it makes most sense to take a break and figure out what is wrong before putting on more miles. It’s important to heal before heading back out to the trails.
If you’re experiencing pain while running, consider getting your running gait analyzed by the Wisconsin Performance Institute (WPI). Carter, one of our physical therapists, is the director of the WPI and can pinpoint faulty movements with this world-class technology. Plus, SPO is the only facility in the state with this equipment!
If you still want to take advantage of the weather and be active, try biking, walking, or a different form of low-impact exercise. Whatever you choose, remember that it’s better to take a few weeks off early in the season that a few months off right when running weather is at its best.