Here's How to Get Started Running Outside, Because Who Actually Loves the Treadmill?
Running can help you lose weight, reduce stress, and generally keep you in shape — but the benefits of running outside may be even greater. Research shows that exercising outdoors can not only improve your mood, but also improve your workouts, by increasing the amount of time you remain active and lowering levels of perceived exertion. This means you're more likely to work out for longer without checking your watch or scrolling through your phone, mentally willing the seconds away. If that's exactly what you need to breathe some life back into your workouts, follow these trainer-approved steps to establish your own outdoor running routine — and say "so long" to the treadmill.
Plan to Run at Least 3 Days a Week
Especially for beginners, it's important to fit in a run at least three times a week — even if you have to do a run-walk combination at first, Lyuda Bouzinova, an ACE-certified personal trainer and cofounder of Mission Lean, told POPSUGAR. Once you've gained some experience, you can technically run every day, but Lyuda recommends varying the intensity — keep your most challenging runs to two to three days a week, and alternate them with easy, slower-paced runs. In order to prevent injury and maintain endurance, you should strength train during the week, too.
Prepare For the Elements
As beneficial as it can be to run outside, it also comes with its own unique set of challenges. If you suffer from seasonal allergies, remember to check the pollen counts, or plan to work out in the afternoon or evening, when allergens tend to be less severe. Always wear sunscreen, and perhaps even a hat to shield your face. Dress in breathable, moisture-wicking fabrics, and layer up during the wintertime. Most importantly, listen to your body, and don't push it when the conditions are too extreme.
Remember too that surfaces like concrete aren't as forgiving as a treadmill, so invest in a pair of running shoes that will properly support your joints.
Start Every Workout With a Warmup
"Depending on how intense your workout will be, a warmup can be anywhere from five to 15 minutes," Lyuda said. To prepare your body for a run, simply go for a quick jog to get your heart rate up, then follow that with some dynamic stretches (more on those ahead). "For a more intense [or longer] workout, spend more time on the warmup run, gradually increasing your speed, before doing your dynamic stretches," she said.
Focus on Dynamic Stretches First
"The best way to stretch before running is to do so with dynamic stretching," Lyuda told POPSUGAR. These stretches mimic the movements you'll do during your workout, so "you're stretching your muscles at the same time you're warming up your body to run," she explained. Try one of these dynamic stretch sequences after you've gone for a light jog:
Slowly Build on Your Workouts
If you're a beginner, "increase your mileage and endurance with a mix of running and walking," Lyuda said. Start with five minutes of running, followed by five minutes of walking, until you've hit your target for time or distance. As you gain endurance and strength, decrease the time you spend walking, until you're running the entire length of your workout. Once you've done that, you can throw in some interval training to ramp up your calorie burn.
Save Time to Cool Down
At the end of each run, slow your pace to a jog to get your heart rate back down, then wrap up with some static stretches. "You want to stretch your hamstrings, quads, hips, and glutes, but it's also important to stretch your shoulders, arms, and back," Lyuda told POPSUGAR. "Running is a full-body workout that impacts more than just your legs." Try one of these stretch routines: