Running on the treadmill may be quick and efficient, but many people prefer to run outside—and for good reason. The fresh air feels nice and it can be helpful to experience a change of scenery as you workout. Less monotony can sometimes mean more miles. But, while running outside is arguably more pleasant, it also comes with its own unique set of challenges. If you’re used to running indoors, it’s important to take into account how indoor running varies from outdoor running. From weather changes to pacing challenges, outdoor running is really a whole new world.
“If you are running outside, you have to be able to adapt to climate, wind resistance, and terrain changes,” says Aaptiv trainer Meghan Takacs. “It’s important to pay attention to outdoor running habits because this is your true stride. These are your true mechanics. Your form and bodily awareness are what set the pace for your race.”
If you like to run outside, read on. Make sure you’re getting the most out of your workout and avoid these five common outdoor running mistakes.
You’re not setting a pace.
According to Takacs, many people don’t accurately pace themselves outdoors. They are used to running on treadmills, which set the pace for you. “It’s imperative to practice your long runs outside so that you can understand mechanics and create muscle memory and pace memory for what different paces should feel like. Outdoor running is all about maintaining a consistent level of effort and knowing what pace that effort is.”
Assign different paces to each of your outdoor runs. You should set and get to know your steady pace, your tempo pace, your race pace, and your sprint pace. Then, practice alternating between them for an added challenge.
You’re maintaining the same pace on hills.
One of the main outdoor running mistakes people make is trying to maintain their pace on hills. “Maintaining pace on hills is silly,” says Takacs. “It’s important that people don’t gas out on hills because it will expend a lot of energy.” She recommends finding your hill pace and sticking to it. This pace should be different than your flat road pace, as you don’t want to burn out by going too fast. Practice keeping this pace steady so you don’t expend too much energy. If you don’t live in a hilly area, you can practice incline running on a treadmill.
You’re not adjusting to the climate.
Unlike running indoors on a treadmill, the weather affects your outdoor runs. If you stayed indoors and kept to the treadmill all winter long, your body will need to get used to the elements again. “It’s important to allow your body to adjust to heat gradually,” Takacs says. “Look at season changes as a chance to rebuild mileage and allow your body to adapt to climate gradually.”
When you’re ready to take it outdoors again, don’t push yourself too hard out of the gate. If you’re used to running in a temperate indoor atmosphere, pay attention to the forecast. Don’t set off for a half marathon on a super hot day. Work your mileage up as gradually as the temperature goes up.
You’re getting impatient.
For some, running outdoors can seem daunting, so they skip it altogether. “People can get impatient on outdoor runs because the terrain can be challenging. They get discouraged at times knowing that they can’t just jump off the treadmill,” Takacs says. “Outdoor runs can be intimidating, but you can combat this by gradually increasing your mileage. This creates the want to run, not the need.”
As with any newer exercise move or style, take it slow. Don’t jet off too far from home because eventually, you’ll have to turn around and run the same distance back. If you’re brand new to outdoor running, consider bringing along a friend. He or she will help you navigate new trails and terrains, as well as keep you motivated through outdoor running’s various challenges and frustrations.
You’re not incorporating strength exercises.
As far as outdoor running mistakes go, forgetting to do strength training is one of the major ones. Anyone who is used to the treadmill knows that outdoor running feels harder. “This is because you use your hamstrings more outdoors, and your quads more on the treadmill,” Takacs explains. “When your hamstrings are underutilized, they become weaker. So when transitioning to outdoor running, it’s good to do strength exercises and sprints outdoors. This will get your body acclimated to firing your hamstrings more.”
Add in jump squats, lunges, and burpees into your outdoor runs to maintain lower body strength in your hamstrings and quads. You can throw these on to the end of your workouts or alternate periods of running with periods of full body exercises.