with Heather Hawk

Healthy Planet Fitness Writer

“Spring Fever” …Back to Outdoor Exercise

We’ve had a mild winter and warmer temperatures have been tempting us throughout the season.  The arrival of Spring brings the promise of consistently warmer weather.   St. Louis has a wonderful Spring season with mild days that are perfect for taking your workouts outside.

Outdoor exercise can revitalize our workouts with variety, motivating us mentally as well as challenging us physically.  The change in environment does however require that we give ourselves a few weeks to adjust.  There is always a transition period when you switch activity, environment, or terrain.  For a smooth, and most importantly, an injury-free transition to your “Spring training” follow these simple guidelines.

• Terrain: The most significant change for your body will be the surface you are training on.  Transitioning to outdoor running or walking usually means training on a harder concrete surface which can take a toll on your ankles, knees, and hips.  In order to prevent possible stress injuries such as shin splints (Periostititis) you should decrease your distance and frequency (number of days) of your running for the first 2-3 weeks. Then, gradually increase the intensity.

•  Hit the track: If you want to be kind to your body and allow for an easier transition from the treadmill to the pavement then hit the track.   The surface of the track is a more forgiving surface than concrete sidewalks and roads.   If you are prone to knee or ankle discomfort yet still want to take your training outdoors to enjoy the weather, then the track is a solution for you.

• Shoes: Many times outdoor training also means uneven terrain, especially if you’re hiking or jogging on trails.  Our feet take the brunt of all of our activities.   This stress is then passed through the body to our ankle, our knees, and even our hips and back.   If you’re going to invest in one item for your workouts, quality shoes are key.   If you have difficulty finding a shoe that fits correctly then consult with a professional such as a Pedorthist, or Certified Orthotist to have your foot evaluated.

• Clothing: Weather can be unpredictable during your outdoor activities.  The easiest solution is to layer your clothing.  A base layer made from a moisture control fabric will keep you warm and dry.  Your outer layer should be a wind or rain resistant jacket. This will keep you warm if the temperature falls or the wind picks up and dry if you get caught in a rain shower or storm.

The most common mistake is jumping into an aggressive outdoor workout when you have not been exercising regularly throughout the winter.   The healthiest way to begin is slowly and gradually pick up the intensity as you are able.   If you remain consistent, continue increasing the duration and frequency of your workouts, then you will see results for summer.