By Scott Quill, Athletes' Performance
Do your training a favor and take advantage of the world’s best motivator—the great outdoors. But before you pound the pavement and gulp the fresh air, make sure your body can handle the open road. With an assist from miCoach, you can take your hard-charging, sweat-inducing workout to any setting. But know this: Exercising in the elements is not an elementary task. Unpredictable climates, variable terrain, pesky pedestrians, and steeper-than-expected inclines have a way of sabotaging the workouts of even highly experienced runners. With the help of expert trainers and nutritionists, we’ve highlighted the strategies you’ll need to run strong outdoors, have fun, and stay safe.
1. Turn down the volume
miCoach often has you donning headphones during your training routines. If you’re not exercising in a gym, you’ll need to be mindful of your surroundings. “To minimize your risk, use just enough volume to keep you on track, so that you can still hear ambient noise around you, like cars and conversations,” says Anthony Slater, a performance specialist for Core Performance. “If you like to crank up the volume, then stick to an open park or track, eliminating any interference from traffic and pedestrians.” If you wear earbuds, another trick is to pull one out while running in an urban or car-filled setting in order to stay tuned into the environment.
2. Don’t let the temperature dictate your hydration habits
“We typically associate drinking while exercising with when we are hot, so when it’s colder out, people forget to hydrate even though they’re still sweating,” explains Amanda Carlson-Phillips, vice president of performance nutrition at Athletes’ Performance. Losing just two percent of your body weight in fluids can decrease your performance by 25 percent—a major slowdown. Advises Carlson-Phillips, “Weigh yourself before and after your runs—you don’t want to lose more than two percent of your bodyweight.” Choose the same type of hydration beverage as you would in the warmer months, but stick with water if your workouts last for less than 60 minutes. (You typically don’t need the extra carbs and electrolytes for sessions under an hour.) Opt for a sports drink during longer-distance runs or when your stomach is empty. On average, you’ll need to take four to six sips for every 10 to 15 minutes of exercise.
3. Consider the fuel cost of hitting the road
Outdoor elements may require you to run in more clothes than you’re used to, meaning your workload will increase. Your nutrition needs will likely remain the same. A solid pre-exercise meal target is 30 to 60 grams of carbohydrates if you’re planning on spending 60 minutes or more on your routine, says Carlson-Phillips. “That pre-exercise snack should also provide about 10 to 20 grams of protein.” Yogurts with cereal, nuts and fruit, half a turkey sandwich, or a protein bar are all good options. If your training lasts less than 60 minutes, aim for the low end of those ranges, that is, about 30 grams of carbs and 10 grams of protein.
4. Fight off the effects of air pollution with antioxidants
A research team writing in the New England Journal of Medicine previously found that running or jogging while being exposed to diesel exhaust caused a reduction in the amount of blood reaching the heart. Scary stuff. “If you can’t ditch busy streets when going for a run, make sure your daily diet contains 5 to 9 servings of fruits and vegetables,” advises Carlson-Phillips. These antioxidant-packed foods will help protect your body against air pollution. Try a wide-range of colorful, seasonal fruits and veggies, such as blueberries, spinach, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, and peppers. “But it’s not an acute cure,” she says, meaning you have to consistently eat this way for the powerful payoff.
5. Warm your extremities to make your body warmer
For peak performance, you want your body on the warm side, rather than chilled. “Your head, hands, and feet are keys to staying warm when outdoors,” says metabolic specialist Paul Robbins. That’s because those body parts are where much of your body heat is released. So invest in a sturdy running cap, gloves, and socks. These non-bulky weather solutions won’t bog down your running gait, allowing you to stay warm without packing on tons of layers. Says Slater, “Proper layers allow you to add or remove clothing easily—a necessity so that you can quickly regulate temperature.” Rain in the forecast? Make sure your shoes are not worn down and stay on a safe surface that won’t get too slippery. A light waterproof jacket and a hat with a brim are ideal. Check out www.adidas.com/running for ideas.
6. Prepare for the terrain
Different running terrains provide different challenges, and require different footwear. With that said, it’s a good idea for beginners to avoid steep trail running, since there is much debris and uneven terrain that can lead to injury, says Robbins, who favors a mix of grass and track surfaces since they are easier on the body than pavement. Experienced runners should pound a variety of training surfaces. Need another reason to head for a park? Scientists suggest that, contrary to city environments that are hectic and fast-paced, going rural offers a more coherent pattern of brain stimulation that serves as peaceful rest for your mind.
7. Steer clear of traffic
If you must run in an urban setting, run opposite the flow of traffic, and stay on side streets and sidewalks when you can. Avoid rush hour and highways. A recent study conducted by scientists at Karolinska Institute in Sweden found that traffic noise appears to increase a person’s risk of a heart attack. When the researchers compared more than 1,500 Stockholm residents who had suffered heart attacks to a control group of residents, they discovered a 40 percent higher risk of heart attacks in those who were more exposed to traffic noise exceeding 50 decibels. And that’s a relatively quiet level of noise; heavy traffic is usually measured between 80 and 90 decibels.
8. Keep your hill work on a level plane
“Hills make for great training tools, but make sure to incorporate them slowly into your routines,” says Slater. That’s because your favorite treadmill incline tends not to match the climbs you’ll face in the real world. To handle those hills, and avoid common shin and knee pains, some simple tips include keeping your stride short when climbing, and even shorter when descending. “Your arm action should be quick, and your stride rate will match that speed on the descent,” says Slater. When choosing hill work, start with an incline that takes about four minutes to tackle, and keep hitting that same grade until it becomes an afterthought in your training runs. Your heart rate may increase quickly at first, but as you improve at running hills over time, you should see less of a spike.
9. Run with a partner
Try to avoid running alone, especially in the evening or early in the morning when daylight is scarce. “If it’s not possible to always run with a buddy, at least let someone know where you are,” says Jennifer Noiles, a performance specialist at Athletes’ Performance. Leave a note, or send a text message to a friend. Other tips: Carry identification, wear reflective apparel and/or a light, carry a mobile phone, and run a familiar route. Choose an area in which there’s a friend’s house on the way in case you need to stop for help, Noiles says.