From Treadmill to Trail:
Transitioning to Outdoor Activity
Warmer temperatures and sunny days provide one of the best opportunities to begin building new healthy exercise habits or to improve upon existing ones. The harsh, cold and snowy winter weather can, unfortunately, lead to monotonous exercise that is confined to a gym or your home. After doing the same things day in and day out for an extended period of time exercise can appear to become more of a chore or obligation rather than a fun, healthy, leisurely activity that we look forward to every day. This can lead to an increased frequency of skipped workouts, less exercise, and lazy, unhealthy lifestyle habits.
Not only is getting outside is one of the most convenient exercise tools available, getting off the treadmill and heading outdoors is one of the best ways to breathe fresh air, quite literally, into your healthy exercise habits. Rather than staring at a TV screen in a crowded gym or a cramped room in your home, the scenery offered outdoors is a refreshing and motivating change of pace. Additionally, you can’t really walk your dog on a treadmill!
Exercising outdoors offers varying terrain, such as trails, streets, sidewalks, hills, tracks, curves, and inclines, all of which trump the smooth, straight surface of a treadmill. The moving belt of a treadmill also does some of the work for you, propelling you forward and making it easier. Moving outside allows for a greater leg muscle workout because you must really work to propel yourself forward while you adjust to changes in terrain. Furthermore, a treadmill or a gym membership may be expensive and require a drive to get there. Moving outside is free and begins the moment you step outside your door!
Here are a few steps to take in order to transition safely and effectively from treadmills to trails:
-Ensure you are injury-free – varying terrain, such as rocks or stones, can be a quick way to aggravate any injury, especially those of the ankle or foot.
-Check the quality of your footwear – shoes designed for running and exercise are a must in order to prevent injury to your feet or joints when exercising outside. If you are in the State College area, check out Rapid Transit Sports. They analyze your stride and do a great job of finding the perfect shoe for you.
-Ease into it – move your running, walking, or jogging outside gradually in order to allow your joints to acclimate to the new terrain. For example, each week, move one or two treadmill sessions outdoors until all of them take place outside after about three to four weeks.
-Start soft – running on pavement can be stressful on your joints. Try finding a local field, trail, or track as your starting surface. Running on a spongy surface like grass or dirt can prevent initial joint pain as your body adapts.
-Plan your route – many towns offer specialized trails ranging anywhere from half a mile to twenty miles! These trails are safe and usually provide engaging scenery along the way. If you plan on running, walking, or jogging through the streets, make sure you know what roads to take and set start and end points on easy to identify locations. Check out MapMyRun for popular running trails in your area!
-Be safe – Try to exercise during daylight and avoid dangerous areas. If you plan on running near traffic, always be wary of vehicles and traffic patterns. Run against the flow of traffic (if possible) so that you can see oncoming cars. If you wear headphones, keep your music at a volume that still allows you to hear people and vehicles. If necessary, don’t forget the sunscreen!-Be inspired!
– Exercising in fresh air and sunlight is much more motivating than an indoor treadmill. Have fun with your new exercise habits and enjoy the scenery. Next time, try to run even further! Explore your area and enjoy improving your health!