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A Beginner's Guide to Safely Running Outside

If you’ve been working out on treadmills or indoors at the gym, and you’re thinking of heading outside to improve your running abilities, there’s some prep to do before you hit the streets. While you will be performing many of the same motions, there are other considerations to make when you are running outside with the weather and the elements or down a road near moving vehicles.

But worry not. We have the advice you need to make this transition easy and successful. Consider these tips to ensure a safe and satisfying experience during your next outdoor run.

Ease Into It

While you are likely excited to get outside and receive the perks of a healthy lifestyle, you don’t want to get ahead of yourself. Just like when you run indoors, you need to ease into it so your body can get used to the motions.

Before you hit the streets, it is essential that you warm up. Even if it’s hot outside, you still need to warm up and stretch the muscles in your legs and your core. By running in place, stretching your legs, and walking before you run, you increase the temperature of your muscles. When your muscles are warm, they’re able to contract and relax at an increased rate, which will help you to feel better and run faster.

It is also important to cool down after your run. Once you reach your finishing point, slow jog for a minute or two and then walk for three to five minutes. By cooling down, you give your muscles a chance to relax, and you keep the blood flowing, which reduces the potential for pain and swelling.

Also, keep in mind that running on a road or sidewalk is different from running on the padded track at the gym, so you will want to protect your feet. Find shoes that offer good arch support, and wear comfortable socks for an extra layer of comfort between the bottom of your foot and the road. Make sure you look at the road ahead of you to identify any tripping hazards, such as rocks and slippery surfaces before you get to them.

Stay Safe Around Outdoor Dangers

While it’s generally safe to run outdoors, and it’s even considered healthy to do so, there are some safety precautions that you’ll want to be aware of that you don’t experience while indoors. If you are running down the sidewalk and across streets, you need to be careful of traffic. Although pedestrians typically have the right of way, a driver can only break so quickly if you run in front of them. So, always be careful.

In addition to watching for traffic, you also need to stay visible while running, especially if you are running at dawn or dusk. You can do that by wearing high-visibility clothing that includes bright colors. You can also add reflective patches that drivers will easily notice. Some runners choose to wear a headlamp if they know it will be particularly dark outside.

Another concern is the weather. When you hit the summer and winter months, you may need to make some adjustments to what you wear when you head outside. For instance, in the winter, you will want to layer your clothing by utilizing long-sleeved shirts under a fleece or something similar. If necessary, you’ll also want to wear gloves and ear protection.

Then there will be the hot summer months. If you want to continue your outdoor running routine when it gets extra warm, you need to stay safe and make different adjustments. Remember that you are not invincible. If there’s a heatwave and you aren’t careful, you are at risk of heat stroke. If you are sweating excessively or you’re feeling lightheaded, stop running, go inside, and hydrate. To avoid the risks, try to work out earlier in the morning, ideally before 10 a.m., before the sun hits its highest point.

Proper Hydration and Food Intake Are Essential

Just like when you’re running indoors, it’s important to hydrate and watch your diet when you start your outdoor running routine, especially if you’re going long distances or preparing for a marathon. Hydration is essential to prevent physical ailments like headaches, nausea, and muscle cramping. Plus, if you let these ailments get out of control, you could pass out during your run or worse.

As a general rule, you should try to drink 4 to 6 ounces of water every 20 minutes. If you are noticing signs of dehydration, like dry mouth or fatigue, hydrate right away. You can drink water or sports drinks like Gatorade, which will replace the electrolytes that you lose during long runs. Many state and national parks are starting to add hydration stations, so take advantage when you see them.

A common issue that many runners face is acid reflux or GERD. This is often the case because the partially digested food and stomach acids start to make their way up into the esophagus. GERD can cause symptoms like heartburn, difficulty swallowing, and a sour taste in your mouth, and it can be distracting and painful as you run.

To prevent acid reflux, drink water before your run to wash the digestive acids out of the esophagus. Also, wait at least two hours after a meal before you head out for your run.

This is your beginner's guide to safety and success when running outside. Follow these tips and always keep your eye on your surroundings, and you’ll be just fine during your outdoor fitness adventures.

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