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Two people running outdoors in the snow during the winter

Transitioning from Indoor to Outdoor Running

Are you ready to ditch the dreadmill and hit the pavement? Here’s how to transition back into road running, and feel good about it

Running on the treadmill can lack the excitement — and the gorgeous scenery — that comes with running outside. After all, there’s a reason it’s nicknamed the dreadmill.

But as the weather warms up and runners begin to return outdoors, it’s important to keep in mind that running on a treadmill is not the same thing as running on the road or the trail. “It is actually a very different exercise,” says Amy Harrison, an athletic trainer with OhioHealth’s Runner’s Clinic. The treadmill moves and you have to keep up with it. But “when you’re running outside,” Harrison says, “you’re having to propel yourself forward. It works your muscles differently.” We talked to Harrison about how to best transition from indoor to outdoor running.

Person looking at smart watch on their wrist

Run by Time

Because running on the road is different from running on a treadmill, your pace can vary. So, Harrison says, instead of worrying about your pace, run by time. For example, if you’ve been running 4 miles on a treadmill and it takes you about 40 minutes, Harrison says go outside and run for 40 minutes. “Don’t worry about the distance,” she says.

Person writing in journal with a workout plan written on the pages

Start Gradually

Don’t go from all treadmill to all outdoors. “Start with one day outside a week,” Harrison says. Then, every week or every other week (depending on how you feel), add another day outside.

Woman running outdoors on grass

Seek out Softer Surfaces

“Getting outside on some softer trails can soften the blow,” Harrison says. So look for trails and places where you can run on the grass. (The Metro Parks are a great place to start.) And keep an eye on the weather and terrain. “It’s going to be a lot harder if you’re going out on a windy day or if it’s really hilly.”

Layout of workout equipment, accessories and shoes

Strength Train

Yes, it’s going to feel awesome to run outside after being cooped up in the gym all winter. But don’t leave the gym completely behind. “It’s really important not to forget the strength training, especially hip and core strength for runners,” Harrison says.

Woman running outdoors during the winter on a snow covered path

Do Some Prep Work

Of course, it helps to prepare for the transition from treadmill to road or trail. So, try to run one day a week outside in winter. And when you’re on the treadmill, make sure to vary the incline once in a while.

Have questions about running? Find a sports medicine specialist.