Jack Frost has a fever: The snow has turned to slush, the trails are mush and his sister’s got a crush. “It’s spring fever,” said Mark Twain. “That is what the name of it is. And when you’ve got it, you want – oh, you don’t quite know what it is you do want, but it just fairly makes your heart ache, you want it so!”
With longer days, warmer temps and restless legs, it seems the only antidote for Jack’s fever is to go for a run—outside. A warm dose of sunshine and fresh air can be transformative after a long winter on the couch or in a stuffy gym. So before the first buds bloom, here are five tips to help work yourself back into another endorphin-filled running season.
Just as you check your tires seasonally, so should you check your running shoes. Spring is a great time to purchase a new pair of shoes—for both the physical and motivational benefits. Training in old or worn-out shoes is one of the most common causes of running injuries. Check the outsole for signs of wear. Take them out for a short test run: Your body and feet will let you know if the shoe is no longer providing the cushion and support you need. New shoes will help protect an early season runner just beginning to hit their stride. Putting your best foot forward with the newest technologies, not to mention colors, will keep you inspired.
A quality running shoe should last you between 300 and 500 miles or about six months. In order to know when it’s time to replace those new shoes, write the date of your first wearing on the inside of the tongue with a permanent marker. Replace your shoes approximately six months from that date.
If you store your running shorts and lightweight tops in an attic or some other inconvenient place during the winter, now’s the time to pull out a few of those pieces to wear on those especially warm spring days that surprise us early in the season. There’s nothing worse than heading out on a balmy spring day in black winter tights and a heavy fleece top—the runner’s definition of claustrophobia.
The 10% Rule
If you’ve taken most of the winter off, be sure to ease back into your training. Forget how fit you were after that fall half marathon. It’s about where you are now. Rather than running every day, mix up your program with cross-training, walking and rest days. Most coaches follow the 10% guideline, a reasonable rule of thumb for adding mileage to your weekly total. Ignoring this time-tested concept can result in early season burn-out or injury.
Set a Goal
In 2012, there were 23,000 road running events in the U.S. With those odds, there’s just got to be one with your name on it. Setting a goal to run a late spring 5K can keep you on track despite April showers. Choose a race and plan your weekly training schedule backwards from race day to the beginning of your program. A six week plan with three days of running along with a supportive program of cross-training should get you ready for the season’s first 5K. Just don’t forget the 10% rule (see above) when planning your schedule.
Jack’s sister may be on to something with her spring fling, especially if the happy couple is running together. Recent studies show that working out with a friend releases more endorphins than going it alone, increasing your ability to go longer and harder. Besides pushing yourself more than you would on your own, a buddy system has the added benefit of keeping you both accountable to a plan. You know that 5K you’ve set your sights on? A little friendly competition with your pal will guarantee missed workouts a thing of the past.
A winter staple of comfort food adds a number of pounds to the average American from November through March. If you’ve mac and cheesed your way through winter’s dark days, it’s time to lighten up your nutritional choices. Switching over to fresh foods—fruits, vegetables, fish and whole grains—will give you the energy to train and recover more efficiently. At the same time, dropping a few of those “comfort” pounds will give your joints a break as you ramp-up your mileage on the roads and trails (of course, following the 10% rule!).
What’s your antidote to Spring Fever? Share your spring running tips here!