Getting Ready for Some Spring Running?

Back into the World

By Jeff Watters


It’s that time again, time to start using your treadmill as a clothing rack and find your outdoor running shoes.

Everyone has an off season. You don’t have to be a professional athlete to need some time off. Even the weekend warriors and those that take some time to run 5k’s during their “running season” have to start back from square one at some point.

Pop quiz – when do most outdoor athletes get injured? Answer – their first month back following a layoff. With the beginning of your training, and the start of our outdoor routines, come some very important guidelines to follow.

No matter how much work you did indoors in the off season, you should approach your running as though you’re starting up fresh. Slower speed, shorter duration. Your body works much differently on a treadmill than it does outside. Rather than moving your body straight up in the air, to accommodate a moving surface below you, your body has to propel itself forward when you run outside – a far more complex set of movements that cause far more muscles to contract. When those muscles are not loose and built up properly, they will fail from being overloaded too quickly. The other major difference is your body’s ability to absorb impact. Your treadmill bed is soft compared to the road. Your body has gotten used to running on a far more forgiving surface and will need time to adapt in order to absorb the impact it will be put through running the same distance on the road as it did on the treadmill. Begin with 60% of the distance and pace you used indoors. Add intensity and duration accordingly, based upon how you feel. Joint pain and muscles that take too long to recover are both signs that you’re progressing too quickly.

If you do happen to begin too aggressively and incur a slight injury, the following checklist will help you get back into the game within a reasonable timeframe, and should save you a visit to the doctor:

1) Stretch for a week first to loosen up stiff joints and connective tissue.

2) Choose non-impact aerobic activity like biking, elliptical gliding, rowing or swimming to do when injuries are first felt. It is never a bad idea to cross-train in any of these activities every other day in place of running.

3) Warm up properly and then stretch. Run nice and easy for about 5-10 minutes, then stretch once you are warm and the muscles and joints are more pliable. Never stretch “cold.”

4) Replace running shoes often. I go through shoes about every 2-3 months and ONLY run in my running shoes. Do not walk in your running shoes since you walk differently than you run. You do get what you pay for too. There are quite a few running stores out there with knowledgeable staff. It’s always better, I find, to pay a few extra bucks to buy running shoes from an actual running store (not just a sporting goods store) that employs RUNNERS. Running Fit and Hanson’s are both great places to go.

One of the best ways to force yourself into training at a smart pace is to find an event in the early season. If you’re normally a 10K runner, find a 5K. If you do marathons, find a 10K. Find something that’s being held within a month or two of the time you begin to train outdoors. Your goal should be to finish that race while averaging 1 minute per mile slower than your normal distance time. In other words, if you run a 10K at a 9 minute mile pace, run a 10K at a 10 minute mile pace. Your ego may suffer a bit but, your body will be primed, and will have built up a strong enough base that you’ll be ready to go full bore into your speed and distance work following your “primer” event.

As for your pace, it’ll come back quickly, as long as you’re smart in the beginning of the season. Want to do it your way? That’s fine; I’ve got numbers for a few good sports medicine people. Once you’ve gone through physical therapy for 6-8 weeks, you can start all over, just read this again from the beginning.

Jeff Watters owns Motor City Bootcamp and Watters Performance Enhancement. You can view some of his programs, or contact him, at


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