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Transition Your Winter Running for Spring Success

Whether you’ve been buried under snow or washed away by endless rains this winter, many parts of the United States are finally starting to see the first signs of spring. As the saying goes, March is in like a lion and out like a lamb, so there are likely to be some big temperature swings left before spring settles in for good. Dramatic changes in temperature (think highs in the 30s and the 70s in the same week!) can make it challenging to keeping your body comfortable no matter what the temperature. If you’re the type of runner who struggles to get used to the warmer weather, follow these tips to transition your winter running for spring success!

1.       Don’t forget your water! It’s easy to be lax about hydration in the winter, but come spring, it is extra important to take hydration seriously as your body acclimates. Why? Dry air in the spring (as compared to the humidity of summer) can make the warmer temperatures seem deceptively comfortable, leading to accelerated dehydration when you don’t drink enough. Make sure to increase your water intake over your winter levels and support your body on your spring runs.

2.       Dress in layers: You know the drill. You start your long run in the pre-dawn frost and end sweating through your running tights. Overdress for your runs and you’re sure to be miserable this time of year. With temperatures rising quickly as the sun comes up and your run progresses, you could experience a 30-degree temperature swing (or more!) during your runs. In addition to dressing in layers that you can shed easily, consider doing a warm-up route of a couple of miles near your car so you can shed your outerwear as you warm up. Whether you choose to wear several light layers or run a route near your car to ditch your gear, make sure you plan for the warmest hour of your run avoid overheating!

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3.       Train for your race: When you spend the winter training for a spring goal race, there’s a high likelihood your race day conditions could be substantially different from your training conditions. Afterall, an 8 a.m. race in late April looks a bit different than a long run in February, right?  Your body is acclimated to cold weather and may not be prepared for the unseasonably warm temps that can pop up in spring. The good news is that by making sure your long runs mirror race conditions as much as possible, you can likely avoid a bad race day experience. If you’re running a race later in the spring (such as May) or in a warm climate, do part of your long run in the middle of the day, or during the warmest part of the day. If it’s cold where you live no matter what time of day, hop on the treadmill for a portion of your run. Early spring races are likely to be cold, so run early in the morning or later at night if you’re coming from a warmer area!

4.       Run based on feel rather than pace. Ahh, the hubris of winter running! Cold weather makes it easy to zoom along effortlessly at paces you couldn’t fathom in the summer, but when temperatures start to rise in the spring, it can be a shot to the ego.  Rather than worrying about your pace, try to focus on your effort level. Keep your easy runs easy (at a conversational pace) and your race-pace efforts proportionately challenging, and try not to obsess over your pace. It’s easier said than done, we know!

5.       Have fun! For some runners, the transition to warmer weather is a welcome relief, but for others, its miserable.  If you don’t love running in the heat, that’s ok – there are still plenty of reasons to get out there and enjoy your workout. Focus on the blooming flowers, new leaves on the trees, and longer days! After all, spring only comes once a year, and soon, we’ll all be sweating our way through the summer!

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