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.