Over the last year, it’s often been difficult to impossible for people to run outdoors. In fact, people who took up running as a way to keep fit in lockdown may never have been off a treadmill. Now that 2020 is finally coming to an end, outdoor running is becoming a more practical option for more people.
Here are some reminders/tips on how to do it safely.
Outdoors, you need to see where you’re going
If you wear spectacles, then you’re going to need to think about how to deal with fogging. Even if you don’t, you’ll need to think about the elements. Experienced outdoor runners will probably have run-friendly sunglasses and headgear. Remember to dig them out of storage. New outdoor runners should probably invest in a good pair of running sunglasses and a peaked cap.
You also need to be seen
Bright colors are fairly effective as long as there is some sort of light. It’s best to back them up with reflective accessories such as wrist and leg bands. These only work when light hits them directly, but when it does they’re extremely visible.
The issue of lights
If you’re using lights, then you need to decide whether their main purpose is to help you see or to help you be seen. If it’s the former, then you generally want the beam to be steady. If it’s the latter, then it’s usually better if it flashes or changes in some way. This helps to draw attention to it. It’s generally useful to have some lights in case you wind up running on the road.
This could be a major issue for people getting (back) off a treadmill. On a treadmill, you’re on a cushioned, flat, obstacle-free surface. You control the incline so you know exactly what it is. None of that applies outdoors. This means that outdoor running is more demanding on your mind and your body, especially your joints.
Getting (back) outdoors is a good time to review your footwear. If you’re an experienced outdoor runner, check that your running shoes are up to running outdoors. If you’re new to outdoor running, you might want to get a second opinion on your running shoes. You’re going to need a lot more cushioning outdoors than you do on a treadmill.
You’ll also need to take warm-ups and cool-downs very seriously. This is particularly important when temperatures are cooler. It’s what gets your muscles prepped for what they’re going to do next. In fact, if you’re running outdoors in the cooler months, your muscles will appreciate all the love you can give them. This means that kinesiology tape is a smart investment.
Invest in thermals and breathable fabrics
When you’re on a treadmill, you can adjust the room temperature and/or use a fan. When you’re running outdoors, you can adjust your level of effort or your clothing. At least, you can in theory. In practice, doing either can be more complicated than it sounds.
Your level of effort will often be determined by factors beyond your control. In winter, for example, you could be running in strong headwinds one day and calm breezes the next. You can adjust your clothing, but ideally, you want to do so while you’re still moving. This keeps up your momentum and your body temperature.
Generally, the most effective way to square this circle is to use thermals as your base layer. They adapt to your body temperature and so reduce the need for changes of clothes. Back these up with layers you can change easily (e.g. gloves and hats). Use breathable fabrics whenever possible to deal with sweat issues. This is particularly important for your socks!
Plan your run effectively
On a treadmill, you can just pick your program and go. Outdoors, you really need to think about the practicalities of your route. In particular, you need to think about personal safety implications. This is especially important in winter due to the impact of the weather.
For example, cold weather drains cell phone batteries quickly. This means that, ideally, you want to charge up your phone completely before you run. You also want to take a portable battery with you, just in case. At the very least do one or the other. This is in addition to letting someone know where you’re going and when you’re expected to be back.
Rain can reduce both grip and flexibility. Also, when it’s cold, it can quickly turn to ice. Keep this in mind when you plan your route. Ideally, look for running trails where you can easily get transport back to base if you need to cancel your run.