Thursday, June 28, 2007

An Excerpt from "Steve Allen's Advice to Marty"

I have been asked how an "indoor" runner can make the transition to outdoor running. It's not an invalid question. After all, outdoors can be a scary place - it's bright, it's noisy, and (perhaps most importantly) it's not at all climate-controlled. If you're used to the treadmill or the elliptical, it might be best to ease into things. Here, then, is my advice:
  • For your first outdoor foray, pick a day (or at least a time) with weather you like. I happen to like running in the rain (though not hard rain), but you might not. If the temperature is in the upper 90s with 70% humidity, consider waiting until evening. Not everyone has the time flexibility that I do, but there's no reason to let a case of heat exhaustion sour you permanently on running.
  • Also, pick a place conducive to running. It can be around your neighborhood, but if you live on a street with a 55 mph speed limit and no sidewalks (as I used to), find a park. If there's a local school with a track that's open to the public, that's ideal.
  • If you're running from your house, plan a shorter route than you've been running indoors. On a treadmill, if you get tired, or start cramping, or your ankle hurts, you can just stop. If you run two miles away from your house, that's two miles you have to go back, so play it safe. There's nothing wrong with having to stop and walk, but it feels better to know you've run the whole way.
  • On a treadmill or (especially) elliptical machine, your stride length is limited. Not so outdoors; try to lengthen your strides. Longer strides = done sooner!
  • Watch out for traffic. They probably see you, but you are moving faster than a normal pedestrian, and that sometimes throws people off.
  • Watch out for bicycles; they're looking for cars, too, and are much more likely than cars to assume traffic laws (like stop signs) don't apply to them.
  • At some point, tell yourself you will run outside at least twice a week, and hold yourself to it. You can run outside more often, but don't skip it - remember, the first time you let yourself quit makes the second time that much easier. Eventually, increase the number of times you run outside, until you're only running inside when the weather is bad.

Next time, I'll be giving advice on how to play the ponies, just as soon as I find my copy of Metro.


anne57 said...

As a former cross-country runner I feel qualified to chime in. All of this is great advice by the way. I would add the following caveats: Children on bikes obey no rules, especially on side-walks, I usually get out of their way. Running in a loop that doesn't require back-tracking is motivationally easier, I find, because once you start you are technically running toward home already.

I have the opposite problem with the treadmill. I am always trying to race it, and then I run into the front of the machine and hit the automatic stop button...which is really really annoying 'cause then I have to restart the machine and adjust the speed... I know that I could hold onto one of the bars to keep my position somewhat static, but this screws up my running is lose lose, and i imagine comical for the people at the gym with me.

Leo said...

Thanks for the tips! No worries about being permanently soured on running. I couldn't hate it any more than I already do.
My treadmill issue is that the treadmill sets my pace, and I think I am likely to wimp out and go slow when I have to set my own.