Winter’s End: getting off the treadmill and onto the road

See the sunlight, yes, get off the hamster wheel! photo courtesty of Flickr user eccampbell.

See the sunlight, yes, get off the hamster wheel! photo courtesty of Flickr user eccampbell.

Many runners prefer treadmill running during the cold, dark winter months. But now, the snow is mostly melted, and temperatures are over the freezing point.  But it’s time to cut the cord, trade the treadmill’s beep’s for your running watch’s beep’s!

While the benefits are clear. You are out of the elements and in a controlled environment. You can wear short sleeves and shorts, and not worry about whether or not a motorist can see you with all of your reflective and flashing gear.  You can produce inclines on a treadmill that your geographic locale does not contain. So, if you’re looking to keep “hills” in your training regime year-round, then hit the mill once a week for some sprints at an incline

However, there is one clear drawback to treadmill running.  When running outdoors, your hamstring is relied upon to complete the end of your gait cycle. While running on a treadmill, the belt is continuously moving; and so you don’t engage your hamstrings as much. How is this a problem? Your hamstrings won’t be firing as much. Over time, this can create imbalances in your musculature and stride.  So, when you switch back to running outdoors, you may experience tightness in your hamstring and possibly the connective tissues behind the knee.  We’re all special little snow flakes, we all experience different our aches and twinges differently.

Advice:

  • Back off the pace a bit for your first week or two back on the roads. If you feel pulling in that hammy, just slow it down and cruise at a pace that doesn’t pull it as much. Stop after 15mins and stretch lightly for a couple minutes and continue the rest of your run from there.
  • More importantly, start runs slowly, and let your muscles loosen naturely. While it may not be freezing, it is still rather chilly compared to running indoors and your muscles need more time to loosen up.
  • Focus on a smooth, evenly powered stride. Stretch and massage your hamstrings after your runs. This will help increase blood flow to the area to speed repair of those muscles, keeping “pulled hamstrings” out of your running life.

Happy Running,
Mike A

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