Spring has officially sprung! Though we still have impressively high snow banks and miles of beautifully groomed ski trail here in the Northeast Kingdom, the Gregorian calendar has spoken: spring is here. And as the sun shines brighter, the days stretch longer, and the roads grow muddier, spring fever is beginning to take hold at Craftsbury Outdoor Center.
I say it at the start of every season: There is something about seasonal shifts that elicit a visceral sense of excitement. These transitions effectively act as nature’s reset button; they offer a welcome change of pace and invite us to switch up our routine. Perhaps you engage in a wardrobe re-shuffling, a switch from warm to chilled breakfast, or a change-up in exercise regimen. For us runners, the coming of each season brings its own character – the post-run swims and sunset adventures of summer; the crunching leaves and cross country races of fall; the frozen eyelashes and clothing layers of winters; the muddy shoes and track races of spring.
As a New England runner, I hold a particular fondness for the start of spring. I smile as fellow runners begin to dot the roads, eagerly emerging from their winter hibernation. It’s as if we can all sense the same call to hit the roads. There is something about the warm breeze hitting your face and the smell of fresh mud that ignites an intense need to get out the door and RUN! Our bodies know it’s the time of year when we can finally shake-off the hat, ditch the wind pants, and abandon the extra warm knee-high socks. Layering season be-gone!
Whether you skied, treadmilled, swam, or plain relaxed during the winter, it’s important to take your time getting back into running. A controlled re-entry is key. A graduated move toward more consistent running is necessary in order to effectively ease your body back and avoid injury.
Here are some basic pointers for a successful return to running spring plan:
- Be patient! This may sound obvious, but we all know how tempting it is to jump right back in to running everyday. Remind yourself how “not normal” running 5 days a week has been for the past couple of months. Start with every other day, or every third day. Maybe follow a walk-jog protocol for the first couple of weeks (e.g. jog for 5 minutes, walk for 1 minute, and so on).
- Ditch the watch! Don’t expect to hit the paces you were hitting during the peak of fall racing season. Let your body lead the way and go by feel. Don’t let your watch dictate how you feel during – or after – the run!
- Give your calves some extra love! If you’re a skier, you know all too well the calf and shin soreness that comes with starting back to run. Budget in some extra rolling and stretching time for your calves post-run, and think about adding some light calf activation exercises to your dynamic warm-up routine. Pro tip: do calf raises throughout the winter! This exercise is simple, doesn’t take long, and will keep the calves worked during lower impact months.
- Embrace the spring mud! Mud is your friend; a nice squishy soft surface for you run on. Lace up an old pair of shoes and muck it up!
- Be kind to yourself! Remember – your running legs will come back, they always do.