6 Tips to Transition to Running Outside

Photo: Getty Images / Matt Dutile

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After an entire winter spent on treadmills or running inside, it can often be tricky to transition to running outside. On a treadmill, our pace, distance, and incline is readily available and adjustable. There are also great distractions like TVs and music. While these luxuries are not available outside, we can assure you that hitting the pavement is just as much fun. Nothing is more beautiful than a springtime run in great weather.

How to Start Running Outside

Whether you’re completely new to running outdoors or just need help transitioning after a long winter hibernation, the following adjustments will help you feel comfortable and strong running outdoors in no time.

Start slow.

Indoor runs tend to be in a controlled environment. When you head outside, there are a lot of variables—weather, wind, elevation, and surface type just to name a few. Start at a pace that is a bit slower than your treadmill runs to get used to the outdoor differences. Once you adjust, you’ll be on your way to running your previous pace, if not faster.

Utilize walking breaks.

When you first start running outside, walk breaks that you didn’t need on the treadmill could be useful. A walk break does not mean you failed your run. On the contrary, it could help you run longer. Inserting one or several 30-second to one minute walks into the middle of your run can extend your workout and allow you to feel stronger. Walks can also help on hillier runs. If you’ve been running on a flat or low incline inside, a brisk walk up steep hills is a great way to become used to new terrain. Before long, you’ll be running up inclines with ease.

Plan your route in advance.

Part of the appeal of a treadmill run is that it requires much less planning. But the variety involved in going outside makes the little bit of extra work beforehand worth it.

Setting up a predetermined running route will help you succeed on your outdoor journey. You won’t get lost or end up with more mileage than intended. You’ll also be ready for any hills along the way. If you don’t know the mileage of a route by your house, use a website or app like Map My Run, Google Maps, AllTrails, or Strava to create new runs and experiment with different courses.

Bring these essentials with you.

Always take some type of identification on a run, whether it is a license or a Road ID. Carrying cash or a card can be helpful for water breaks if you are in an area without fountains. Or you can plan to carry water and supplemental nutrition with you in a running vest or belt. If you live within a city, pack a transit card in case you end up further from home than anticipated. Many runners like to unplug and leave their phone at home, but consider carrying it along. It makes it easier to call for any assistance or to bring up a map in case you get lost. Check the weather before you go out to determine if you’ll need a jacket, hat, gloves, or other add-ons to your running attire.

Switch up the surfaces you’re running on.

When you start running outside, it’s important to incorporate some variety into the surfaces you run on. Only running on pavement can be hard on your legs, so be sure to switch up your route every now and then.

Take to the trails. Or grass or bridle path or dirt. Running on soft surfaces is easier on your body and can aid recovery from tougher runs. Plus trail running is a beautiful hiatus from busy roads. Just be sure to stick to well-marked areas and consider bringing along a friend.

Find the fun.

The best way to get used to running outside is to make it exciting. Find a friend or join a running group. Don’t be afraid to run with others; you can find a runner or group in your area that trains at a similar speed or experience level. Plan a destination run to your favorite brunch place or coffee shop. Drive to a park or a new-to-you route. Or train for a race. If you enjoy the nature aspect of being outside, consider joining a citizen science project to motivate you to run outdoors.

Having fun on the run is the best way to adapt and enjoy your time outdoors.


From Women’s Running