A Runner’s Spring Tune Up

We are rounding the corner toward spring, people! In my last column, I wrote about stalwart winter runners who thrive in the lightless, freezing months, finding soothing rhythms in dark early mornings, truncated afternoons, and long evenings of solitary pavement-pounding. I envy them, but my favorite time of year for running (for everything, really) is spring. If you’re like me, you’d be wise to take a minute to assess the state of your running before springtime joy leads you to haphazardly triple your current mileage. Take a minute to check in with yourself: What’s working? What could be adjusted? What are your goals? Consider the following ways of taking good care of yourself as you gear up for the glorious springtime runs ahead.

Evaluate Your Shoes

If they’ve been worn for 500 miles and/or show signs of wear, or if you’ve been donning the same pair day after day (vs. allowing 48 hours between runs to allow the insoles to bounce back to full support), it’s likely time for a new pair. Not sure your current shoe model is still right for you? Stop into a reputable running store for an assessment.

Schedule Some Pre-hab

Unlike rehab, prehab happens before issues begin. Schedule an appointment with a physical therapist for a tune-up: Find out what’s in alignment, which muscles are strong and which are weaker (for me, it’s always the gluteus medius), discuss any aches and pains while still they’re in their early stages, and ask which exercises and stretches to practice as your running ramps up. This is also an opportunity to seek advice on how to transition injury-free between two very different sports, like downhill skiing and running.

Be Thoughtful About Rest and Nutrition

If you’re feeling run-down or have dealt with recurring injuries, pay attention to how much rest you’re getting (Are you taking a day off every week? Sleeping at least 7 hours a night?) and how well you’re nourishing yourself. Getting a good balance of carbohydrates, protein, and fat (as well as fiber, produce, and, of course, treats!) can be a challenge. It’s not uncommon for runners to under fuel themselves. It’s also not uncommon for hangry runners to inhale more food than they actually need. For science-based advice personalized for your medical history, your dietary needs, and your activity level, schedule an appointment with a sports dietitian, who can help you determine the right mix of fuel for everyday life and out-of-the-ordinary happenings like race weekends and pre-marathon tapering. If seeing a nutritionist isn’t in the cards, try tracking your intake of nutrients over the course of a typical week (on paper or in an app), paying attention to what might be lacking or excessive.

Sign Up for a Race or Running Group

How can you make the most of this running season? Sign up for a new race length or terrain (maybe a 5k or a relay if you always do half marathons, or a trail run if you’re always racing on pavement), register for a scenic run in a new city you’d love to visit, or check out a running group that will encourage you to push the pace or explore new neighborhoods. Running, like springtime, is full of new possibilities. //

Sarah Hauge writes the Run Wild column for each issue of Out There. She wrote about a couple of Spokane’s hardcore winter runners in the Jan/Feb edition. Find all of her columns online at www.outthereoutdoors.com.

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