Did you find that the winter holidays, limited daylight, and cold weather wreaked havoc on your running schedule this winter? Don't beat yourself up -- many runners, especially those in cold climates, cut back on running during the winter months. Here are some tips to keep in mind as you head outside to take advantage of the nicer weather and ease back into running:
Make slow increases. If you haven't run consistently all winter, start your spring training with short, easy runs -- no more than 3 or 4 miles at a time. Don't run two days in a row. One of the easiest ways to get injured is to increase your mileage too soon, before you've established a good running base. Don't bump up your mileage by more than 10 percent per week. If you have the desire and time to train more, do low-impact cross-training, such as the bike or elliptical, to build your fitness.
Watch your intensity. Be patient with your running -- it could take as long as 4-6 weeks to re-build your running base. Don't introduce hill running or speed training until you have a solid base. And make sure you give yourself enough recovery time in between hard workouts.
Look ahead, don't look back. If you took some time off from running, you may be frustrated thinking about your previous fitness level. Don't put pressure on yourself to get back into shape quickly. You'll have plenty of time to train and improve your fitness for summer and fall races. Just enjoy running as you work on building up your fitness level gradually and safely.
Some days I run for the stress relief, while other days it's purely for the calorie burn. But most days, it's because I love that combination of freedom, strength, and joy I feel while running. There are always those days when getting through a run is pure drudgery, but I know one of those awesome runs are just around the corner.
Why do YOU run? Here's what some running.about.com readers have to say:
"Why do I run? Life sucks sometimes. Running is my way to escape it. At the end of a day, I can take all the pain, all the hurt, all of the frustration I've collected over the day and forge something greater than myself. Running is my way of showing I'm not going to stay down, and instead I will rise." - Trevor
"I like everything about running. The feeling of accomplishment, the positive mental benefits, and the way my body feels afterwards. I can eat what I want and No gym membership required. Achieving longer distances and better times makes me feel good about myself. The days of preparation before and the electricity in the air before a race are addictive. Running fills such a part of me that I am much less demanding of others." - James
"Running makes me feel strong. It clears my head. It helps me tackle other challenges in my life. It keeps me in shape. It makes me feel I've achieved something, when I start the day with a run. You run. You win." - Claire
Share your reasons why you run here.
If you're running to lose weight, you may be sabotaging your efforts by consuming way more calories than you need It's easy to not realize how many calories you're actually consuming throughout the day, but keeping track of your foods and drinks will make you more aware of everything that you put in your mouth. You'll think twice about grabbing some cookies in the breakroom at work, or finishing your kid's dessert after dinner. Some runners like to track their foods along with their workouts in a training journal. Using a site like FitDay is a fun way to keep track online.
When you're a new runner, it's helpful to have someone you can turn to ask questions and seek advice. You don't necessarily have to run together, but you can talk to each other about running (since non-runners in your life might be sick of hearing about it) and help keep each other motivated.
If you're looking for some running buddies, here's some advice: