As much as we love hardcore gym sessions, the change of seasons provides the chance to challenge ourselves with a whole array of performance goals. There’s nothing like a workout revamp to help rev up fitness levels, and this spring we’re all about stepping up the intensity of our regular workout with an outdoor running routine.
Getting out on the road to brush up on your running technique offers a completely different experience to pounding the treadmill at the gym – and we guarantee you’ll soon be bitten by the running bug. Read our guide to find out what could be in it for you.
1 Feel refreshed
A change of scenery and a varied workout – what’s not to get excited about? There are plenty of things to look forward to when you take your runs from the treadmill to the great outdoors, whether you’re running down winding country lanes or sprinting around the city streets.’ Due to the rhythmic nature of the activity, it’s easy to zone out, switch off from the outside world and let your mind wander. It could even turn out to be your most creative time of the day,’ says Energie Fitness Clubs and Ragdale Hall fitness consultant Dean Hodgkin. Now the mornings are becoming lighter, heading out for a run first thing offers the perfect start to your day.
2 Better your body
There’s no denying that taking your workout to the pavements is more taxing on your body, but thankfully the payoffs are plentiful. Without the natural momentum of the treadmill your muscles have to work harder, and so you naturally will reap some awesome rewards, like a more toned lower body and a slimmer middle. ‘Running is a great way to achieve below-the-belt toning – creating thighs and buttocks you can bounce coins off,’ adds Dean.
3 Boost levels of vitamin d
What’s running got to do with immunity? Well, quite a lot actually. Because the body can’t manufacture vitamin D (a nutrient that’s essential for fending off illness) on its own, we require exposure to sunshine to keep levels continuously topped up. If you feel like you’re constantly battling the sniffles you may be low in vitamin D, and thankfully, picking up the pace outside can help to restore levels and reduce your risk of getting sick. If you’re worried you may have a deficiency, consult your GP and ask to have your levels checked.
4 Burn more calories
Running is an effective and efficient way of burning calories, and as you’re working your body harder when pounding the pavements you’ll experience a higher calorie burn. ‘Even just a comfortable pace of around 6mph will burn around 300 calories in just 30 minutes, so it’s incredibly effective in all kinds of weight-loss programmes,’ says Dean. Not bad!
5 Challenge yourself
Whether you’re new to the running scene or already a running pro, setting yourself a challenge is a fantastic way to make sure you’re constantly making progress. ‘Most weight-loss and fitness programmes fall on stony ground because clearly defined goals were not put in place. Setting yourself a long-term target of running a half or even full marathon can be the ideal stimulus to keep you on track – and don’t forget how awesome you’ll feel when you cross the finish line,’ says Dean.
6 Improve joint health
The transition from the treadmill to the outdoors can be harsh on your joints, but if you take your running workout to softer surfaces like grass or a running track, you can help to safeguard your body while making your legs stronger and keeping your bones healthy.
‘Osteoporosis is a very real health risk for women and a key preventative measure is to increase bone density by doing more bone-loading exercises – running being one of the most beneficial,’ explains Dean. Just don’t forget to warm up your muscles and cool down following your sessions.
7 De-stress the natural way
Need to take a break from everyday life? When you’re feeling wound up and in desperate need of a breather, simply pick a picturesque trail, grab your heart rate monitor and let your mind shift focus
as you get into your stride. ‘There are great mood-lifting, stress-busting gains to be made from exercising outdoors, as your senses will be far more stimulated compared with a gym environment,’ says Dean.
8 Slash your risk of disease
Running not only helps to improve your physical appearance and make you feel more energised, it could also lower your risk of chronic diseases like diabetes type 2 by reducing levels of blood glucose after eating. Win, win!