Get ready, set, go outdoors!

Tips to help you prepare for exercise in the open air

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Winnipeg Health Region
Wave, March / April 2013

This winter has been long and cold, with more snow than we have seen in years.

With all the snow and sub-zero temperatures, you may have moved your walking or running workout indoors to a track or treadmill. Or maybe you shelved it altogether this winter.

As the warmer temperatures hint that spring is on its way, it is time to ready yourself to get back outside or re-energize yourself by planning for outdoor success. Here are some tips on gearing your mind, body and equipment for the outdoors.

Get S.M.A.R.T.

Whether you are new to walking or running, or returning after a bit of a break, planning will be an essential first step. Setting a goal and writing it down is a great place to start. Making it a "S.M.A.R.T." goal will increase your chances for success. SMART goals are Specific objectives that can be Measured and Attained. They are Realistic and have a Time frame associated with them.

Prepare your body

Transitioning from walking/running indoors (or not at all) to hitting the pavement come spring can be tough on your body, if it's not prepared. It is common to see a variety of injuries because of the different technique used in running outside, along with the difficulty in navigating uneven surfaces along paths and roadways (potholes and curbs).

Common injuries to watch out for are:

  • Plantar fascia pull (heel pain);
  • Iliotibial band syndrome (knee pain);
  • Shin splints (front lower leg pain);
  • Achilles tendonitis (pain in the lower back leg tendon near the heel);
  • Chondromalaci (knee pain caused by the knee cap rubbing on the upper leg). If you have any of these symptoms that last longer than a few days, you should visit an athletic therapist or other healthcare provider to have it checked out.

It is better to prevent an injury from happening in the first place, than to try and fix it. Here are a few tips to prepare your body and prevent injury:

Adjust your treadmill

Increase or vary the incline of your treadmill to help prepare you to move outdoors.

Take it slow

Warm up before you start, beginning with walking and slowly increasing the intensity. Include some flexibility exercises as part of your routine. Include calf stretches, hamstring stretches, toe touches and quadricep stretches. For a more detailed description on how to do these stretches, visit www. winnipeginmotion.ca.

Pace yourself

Gradually increase your distance over time. Use the 10 per cent rule - increasing your distance or time by no more than 10 per cent per week (i.e., Week One: 10 minutes; Week Two: 11 minutes).

Get help

Local running stores and fitness facilities offer introductory running and walking classes that can help a newbie get started and more experienced folks stay motivated.

Get the right equipment

There is one piece of equipment that stands between you and the pavement - your shoes. A properly fitting shoe that matches how your foot hits the ground is really important. This doesn't always mean you need the most expensive shoes. Investing time and money for the proper shoe can go a long way to help prevent injuries and increase your enjoyment. Visit a store with trained staff to help identify the category of shoes (stability, cushioning or motion control) that are best for you.

If your shoes are well-worn, showing signs of wear and tear, then it is time to replace them. Shoes that are only worn indoors, and may appear "new and clean," will also need to be replaced over time.

Here are a few things that may indicate that it is time to replace your shoes:

  • Part of the tread is worn off completely or the tread is worn unevenly.
  • The heel cup is no longer holding the heel in place.
  • The upper cloth is torn or unstitched.
  • You start to experience regular joint or knee pain.

Kristine Hayward is a co-ordinator with Winnipeg in motion.



Be S.M.A.R.T. about your physical activity goals


Make sure your goals are straightforward and outline what you want to happen. Example: Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, I'm going to walk in the park for 30 minutes before heading to work. I will also walk on Saturday and Sunday afternoons for 30 minutes.


If you want to know if your goal is measurable, ask yourself, "How will I know when my goal has been achieved? Saying that you're going to walk or run more isn't as easy to measure as saying that you're going to walk for 30 minutes, five days a week, during the month of April.


Set goals that are challenging but within your reach. Planning to run the full marathon with one month of preparation likely isn't attainable. But it might be realistic to set a goal of joining a "Learn to Run" program and participating in an upcoming community five-kilometre walk/run in July. Keeping your goals reachable will help you avoid frustration and disappointment, yet be challenged enough to keep your motivation up.


Ensure that your goals are doable and realistic. If you have family and work commitments, telling yourself that you'll set aside 60 minutes a day for exercise may not be realistic. A more realistic goal might be to get at least 150 minutes of physical activity a week by being active for 10 minutes, three times a day for five days.


Set a time frame for your goal. This will give you something specific to work toward. Registering for a community walk/ run in July sets a specific time frame to your long-term training as well as scheduling in specific "appointments" to go for your walk/jog for each week. Every few weeks, it's a good idea to take stock of where you're at, and revise your goals if necessary.


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