Fitness / Outdoor Running

How to Build the Perfect Outdoor Running Route

Get an in-depth look at factors to consider when mapping out your next run.

It’s finally spring, and that means that it’s time to grab your shorts from the back of your closet, lather on your sunscreen, and move your workout to the outdoors. You’re no longer limited to running inside on the treadmill. Instead, you can put shoe to pavement and enjoy the scenery and fresh air around you. Unlike running on a treadmill, however, there are certain things to remember when planning your run outside. Perhaps most important of these things is mapping your running route. We asked Tanner Spees, former ultra runner and fitness trainer, for advice on what steps to take and things to consider when building the perfect running route.

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Plan Your Distance

An important part of running outside is knowing your running capabilities and the mileage that your body can handle. According to Spees, “Always have your running route planned! Follow a loop course and complete a distance that is 25 percent less than your maximum mileage. [That way] you don’t have to find yourself hailing a cab or an Uber at the end of your run.” If you’re unfamiliar with your neighborhood or unaware of any parks and running trails, try mapping out your run before you go. There are plenty of apps, in addition to your phone’s map and GPS tracking, that can help you in building the perfect running route before you even step outside.

Aaptiv’s outdoor running workouts will prompt you to turn around when you’ve reached the run’s halfway point so you’re never stuck too far from home.

Traffic and Crowds

When deciding to run outside, whether you live in the city or the suburbs, it’s essential to be aware of certain traffic or crowds in your surrounding area. To avoid over-crowded sidewalks and bustling streets filled with cars, pick a time that’s less crowded. For example, early in the morning or in the evening. Spees, a Los Angeles resident, says, “If you live in a highly-populated city, it’s best to go early in the morning before any crowds pick up. Ideal running time can even start as early as four am. Experience the sunrise as light filters into the city.”

Hills Versus Flat Roads

Trying to decide whether to run on hills or on flat roads? Spees says to think about what type of training you’re trying to do. If you’re running for fun, stick to the flat roads. If you’re training for an event, Spees recommends adding variety to your routine that consists of both elevation and terrain. So, a nice mixture of trail running and road running. If you’re hoping to challenge yourself with hills, try practicing by running hills on the treadmill first. You’ll be better able to gauge how your body handles an increasing incline before you’re already halfway up a big outdoor hill.

Prepare for the Weather

“Always be conscious of what the day is going to look like,” says Spees. If the forecast says that it’s going to rain, maybe bring a poncho to tuck into your running belt. When it’s sunny, always remember to wear sunscreen and top off your outfit with a cap for extra protection. The sun will also make your run a bit warmer. If you plan on being outside for a long time, bring along some water or be sure to check for water fountains along your route before you go. Additionally, if you decide to go off-road, be mindful that, in the rain, the mud can make the trails slippery. Be sure to consider your footwear before heading outside.

Your Surroundings

By running outside, you’re adding extra layers of obstacles to your run, thanks to the elevated terrain and uneven sidewalks. If you’re deciding to plan your running route around traffic, it’s critical to be mindful of moving cars and looking both ways before crossing the street. If you’re running with an Aaptiv trainer, make sure that your volume is not loud enough to block out car horns or bike bells. Running at night is an easy way to avoid crowds or the heat of the weather. Just make sure to wear light reflective clothing or a small light to make yourself noticeable to oncoming traffic.

Your running route can make or break your run so take the time to really map out the ideal path for you. Eventually, you’ll probably come up with a collection of routes for various types of runs—long, short, trail, and hilly.

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