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Transitioning From the Treadmill to the Road

Posted 3/10/2017 by UHBlog

Ready to move your run outdoors, but concerned about injuries? Ask us how to hit the pavement safely.

Transitioning From the Treadmill to the Road

Many people enjoy running on a treadmill. After all, you can watch Netflix during your workout, the weather is predictable, your water bottle is always within easy reach and the treadmill keeps track of your pace and distance so you don’t have to. Moreover, setting the treadmill to a 1-percent grade can closely mimic outside running.

Still, many runners – casual and serious alike – prefer exercising in nature.

“Treadmills can be very boring,” says physical therapist Benjamin Geletka, PT, DPT, OCS, FAAOMPT, a triathlete. “I’d rather run outside in cold weather than run on a treadmill. I typically encourage people to start running outside more than inside, but that’s a personal bias.”

If you’ve been running on a treadmill, spring may be the perfect time to transition to the street, trail or outdoor track. But first, be sure to learn proper techniques and take certain precautions so you can enjoy productive and safe runs.

Geletka recommends these nine strategies:

  1. Start on flat ground.
    “If you’re used to a treadmill and go to uneven surfaces with turns and unexpected turf, that can put stress on your ankles and hips and make you sore or potentially injured,” he says.
  2. Expect fatigue and soreness. As long as you aren’t overdoing it, issues such as hip soreness, thigh soreness and shin splints will resolve over time.
    “Most people who have been on a treadmill will be fine and it’s okay to expect some discomfort, but if you’re unable to run because of pain, it’s time to see someone from sports medicine,” Geletka says.
  3. Begin by running outdoors once or twice a week. You can supplement additional runs on the treadmill.
    “If you’re used to a lot of mileage on the treadmill, you might tolerate outside better,” Geletka says. “But, to be safe, start with three or so miles twice a week then go to four or five miles as you go on with your training.”
    A good rule of thumb is to increase outdoor mileage by 10 percent each week.
  4. Invest in a supportive pair of running shoes and, depending on how hard you are on those shoes, replace them every 300 to 500 miles. Purchase shoes from a store that specializes in fitting runners.
  5. Take allergy medications, if needed, before running. It’s never fun for folks with seasonal allergies to deal with itchy eyes and a runny nose during a workout.
  6. Dress for the weather. Wear waterproof gear in the rain because getting soaked and cold can increase the chance of developing hypothermia – even in the spring. Geletka advises wearing zippered attire that can be vented, so you can cool off if you get warm and zip up if you get cold. Wear wool socks to wick away moisture and don a hat with a visor to shield your eyes from driving rain.
  7. Apply sunscreen and wear sunglasses to protect yourself from UV rays.
  8. Be mindful of your surroundings. When possible, run in a well-lit area without a lot of traffic. Recruit a running partner if part of your route weaves through isolated locales.
  9. Use ear buds wisely. Listening to music can motivate you to run faster and farther, but it can also distract you from noticing fallen tree limbs, oncoming traffic or other potential threats. If you’re ever concerned about your safety, turn off the music and stay alert.

Benjamin Geletka, PT, DPT, OCS, FAAOMPT, is a physical therapist at University Hospitals Rehabilitation Services at University Hospitals Avon Health Center. You can request an appointment with Geletka or any other health care provider online.

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