Many of us thrive on getting outdoors and breathing fresh air during our workout routines, and there are few outdoor exercises as effective as running. Running burns calories, torches fat, and is free of charge. Our guide to starting an outdoor running program combines useful tools to train your body, ease into your program, and strength train your muscles for a productive, injury-free running regimen that will ramp up your cardiovascular fitness, blast fat, and tone your body. Let us get you started on a fitness program that will go the distance!
Know Your Path: A short jog can turn into several more miles than planned with just one wrong turn. Stick with what you know. Start off going around your block, even if you need to loop around a few times. There may be designated trails at a nearby park, too. Plan a route that you are familiar with and that you know other walkers and runners will be populating. There’s safety in numbers!
Train Your Body: If you have been walking or running on a treadmill prior to venturing outdoors, give your body some time to adjust. Running outside can be a lot more challenging for the body without the momentum of the treadmill propelling you forward. Your muscles are going to be working harder, more muscles will be recruited, and your joints take on the extra stress of hitting uneven surfaces. To prepare your body for this change, take the last few weeks of cool weather to train on the treadmill. Walk or jog at a 2-3% incline to get your body used to terrain that isn’t completely flat. Try this Tough Tread Interval Run to get your body used to the outdoors before actually heading out. Once you are outside, keep your first few runs on the shorter side to give your body time to adjust.
Start Slowly: While running is a fabulous workout – it tones your lower body and kills calories at the same time – it can be tough! Start off slowly and listen to your body. Commit to running three days per week for the first 2 weeks. If after that you feel motivated and capable of increasing that number, go for it! For your first couple of runs, simply walk out your front door and get yourself 10 minutes away from your house. Then turn back. You just worked out for 20 minutes! The following week, increase your time spent running outdoors.
If you are completely new to running, begin by alternating walking with jogging. As your body gets used to this new exercise, you can decrease the amount of time you walk and increase the amount of time you jog. Just remember to listen to your body – any sharp pains should not be ignored. Slow down and try again another day.
Get More Out of Your Run: When you’re running, your leg muscles are doing a whole lot of work! A great runner does more than just run. On days when you are taking a break from running, do some strength-training exercises to keep your body in shape. Strengthening the muscles around the joints that are doing all of the work during your runs will keep you safe from injury. Try the Total Body Workout for Beginners if you’re just starting out. Once you’ve mastered that workout, incorporate these 5 go-to moves into your days off for a strong body and great run!
Now that you have the secrets to a successful outdoor running program, lace up those running shoes and head outside!
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Be sure to check out our guide to Choosing the Perfect Running Shoes. And print out our sample schedules below to get started on your new adventure!