5 Ways to Make the Most of Spring Running

5 Ways to Make the Most of Spring Running

Spring officially begins in just a few days! (Someone please inform Seattle weather of that, as I write this we’ve had days of chilly temperatures, high winds, and rain.) Spring is perhaps the most welcome season for runners, inviting them out of their treadmill hibernation and back into the great outdoors for miles of sunshine and spring running.

While there is no wrong way to embrace spring running, these 5 ways to make the most of spring running will help you transition without injury and setting yourself up for a season of success and PRs in summer and fall.

5 Ways to Make the Most of Spring Running

5 Ways to Make the Most of Spring Running

1. Build a strong aerobic base with long and easy runs

Whether you’re gearing up for a summer full of 5Ks, start training soon for your fall marathon, or just want to stay fit for all of the outdoor activities that warmer weather brings, you will benefit from doing several easy runs and long runs.

An easy pace is essential here. By slowing down, you are able to run further, since you converse for energy. An easy pace is easier on your mind as well, which means you’ll mentally be able to handle more miles in addition to physically.

Don’t set a limit for how slow you’ll go! My current half marathon pace is a 7:30/mile, and I run most of my easy runs at an 8:30-10:00/mile pace, depending on the duration and the day. You want to worry more about going too fast than going too slow on your easy runs. If it helps, keep your GPS watch on timer mode or leave it at home.

You accumulate less fatigue when running easy, which again means that you can run longer distances more frequently. If you’re using spring as a time to increase your overall mileage, easy runs will help you do so without getting injured or burnt out.

Long runs of course are relative. For a runner doing 3-4 miles a few times a week, 6 miles is a long run, while for 40 mile per week runners, 12-15 miles is a long run. Regardless of how many miles per week you run, add in one longer run per week. For low mileage runners, try to build up to running for 60 minutes once a week. Higher mileage runners will want to aim for 90 minutes or more at least once a week.

Long runs increase your durability, fatigue resistance, and aerobic base, all of which will make you a better runner and overall more fit for any type of activity. Plus, you will be more prepared, both physically and mentally, for full or half marathon training if you regularly complete long runs.

2. Ease into speed work with fartleks

Want to get injured this spring? Then jump straight into difficult and pace-specific interval workouts such as 400 meter or mile repeats.

Even more so than the duration or frequency of runs, intensity significantly contributes to your risk of injury from running. Speed work not only works your lungs and legs, but it also applies a significant amount of force and therefore stress to your joints, muscles, and connective tissue.

Don’t want to get injured but do want to get faster? You don’t need to completely neglect speed training. In fact, speed work done at the appropriate intensity (usually 3K-5K pace) and appropriate duration (usually no more than 5-10% of your total weekly mileage) offers numerous benefits for even marathoners.

Focus this spring on easing into speed work with fartlek runs, which are run according to effort rather than pace and thus (as you’ll see in the next tip) decrease your risk of injury. Fartlek runs usually cover less distance at a harder pace, which prevents you from making the mistake of doing too much, too soon.

Try one of these fartlek workouts to ease you into speed training:
Fartlek Workouts for 5K through Marathon
Fartlek Countdown Running Workout (short and long versions)
Race Pace Effort Adjustable Workout
Fast Friday Workout

3. Run by effort, rather than pace

This piece of advice is particularly applicable if you spent most of the winter months running on the treadmill or cross-training. When you run on the treadmill, the surface is softer, which means less impact, the terrain is smooth, there’s no wind resistance, and unless you played with incline the elevation is unchanging.

Outdoor running is the opposite: concrete and asphalt are harder, there are dips in the road and trails aren’t smooth, the wind can be a powerful force in the spring, and the elevation changes even if you live in the pancake-flat Midwest.

With all of these differences, your pace will be slower outside than inside. Don’t force yourself to run the same pace as you do on the treadmill, but rather run according to the same perceived effort.

Some runners, however, may find they run faster outside, because of the scenery, cool breeze to regulate temperature, and the freeing feeling of not being confined to the dreadmill. Either way, don’t compare your outdoor pace to your treadmill pace, but focus on running by perceived effort.

5 Ways to Make the Most of Spring Running

4. Make injury prevention and strength training a priority

So far we’ve talked a lot about what can get you injured during spring running. In addition to keeping most of your runs easy and pacing those easy runs by perceived effort, how can you prevent injury?

Spring is the perfect time to make strength training and injury prevention exercises (aka prehab) part of your weekly routine. Add a couple days a week where you lift weight or do bodyweight strength training exercise. These exercises do not need to be intense, nor do you need to spend hours lifting: just 20 minutes twice a week of a few basic exercises will give you a stronger and more resilient running body.

Take time once a week to perform specific injury prevention exercises. If you’re prone to runner’s knee or IT band syndrome, focus on your core and hips. If you’ve dealt with muscular injuries in the past, consident yoga to stretch and strengthen. Other great injury prevention workouts include Pilates and barre workouts, which strengthen those small supporting muscles and your core for a balanced and strong body.

Try these workouts to build strength and prevent injury:
Pilates for Runners
Hip Stability Exercises for ITBS and Runner’s Knee
Pure Barre Tone in Ten Review
Balance Exercises for Runners

5. Build confidence for upcoming training and racing goals

Go ahead, share your awesome run on Instagram and give yourself a high five for that workout! Running, no matter how far or how fast, is an accomplishment that you should celebrate. By celebrating your little victories, you incrementally build self-confidence in your ability to achieve your larger goals.

Spring running is the perfect time to focus on those small accomplishments, especially if you aren’t training for a race at this point and feel a bit unmotivated. Without hard training plan or upcoming race, you place less pressure upon yourself during spring training and thus can enjoy your runs more. And as many runners find, enjoying your runs will help you realize just how much you accomplish!

How can you specifically build confidence during spring running? Dedicate one run a week to challenging yourself. As I stated above, stick to shorter and effort-based workouts such as fartlek runs or progression runs, and try to run without looking at your GPS instant pace. Afterwards, take pride in how you felt, how you surprised yourself with your pace, and everythng else you accomplished in that run!

Linking up with Wild Workout Wednesday and Coaches’ Corner!

What’s your favorite part of spring running?
Are you signed up for any races this spring?

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34 Responses

  1. I wish we had Spring in SC. It’s already in the 80s here and running is going from fun to survival mode. Typically my summers look like this with mostly base building and LSD because it’s hard to do much speedwork when it’s super hot and humid. Right now, I’m hoping to eek out a 10K PR on April 2 and maybe a 5K on April 16 before it gets *too* hot. Most of my summer races are just glorified tempo runs though! I have always heard that summer miles bring Fall smiles and that is usually true for me, my lungs adapt to the humidity and heat and I race much faster when it’s gone!

    1. That’s crazy how hot is already is! Running in humidity is hard enough work without adding speed work, it almost feels like how I’d imagine training at high altitude must feel. But I bet is does make fall running so much easier. Good luck on your 10k!

  2. Thanks for including my speed workout here Laura! And, we have been in a wind tunnel over here, which I hate more then snow or cold!! I’m kind of looking forward to warmer temps and no wind but, I’ll take what I can get, as long as it’s not indoor running 🙂
    You offer so many great tips here and, for me, the key has been adding two days of strength training.

    1. Than you! Loved that speed workout, especially the 30 sec surges before the full intervals. We’ve had so much wind in Seattle as well and I agree, it’s the worst of all the winter conditions! But even then, yes, windy running in spring still beats treadmill running – and it’s like built-in resistance training 🙂

  3. thanks for sharing my pure barre link! I like running in the spring but sometimes, the transition gets me when it’s suddenly much warmer. I prefer the transition from summer to fall because the cooler temps make it easier to run faster with less effort.

    1. Spring does seem to have a sharp transition – it’ll just go from 30 degrees to 60, which is so rough on the body and hard to adapt to for running. I’m not sure what it does in Seattle though so I’m hoping it’s not such a severe change. Fall running definitely is a welcome season after summer heat!

  4. You better link this up tomorrow too! This might sound weird, but I love the influx of smells (of flowers and blossoms). When you live in a city that has to plan the seasons, anything that smells natural is just so refreshing.

  5. Thanks for sharing my workout!I love the transition to spring running, even though I have been outside most of the winter. I am trying to easy slowly back into harder workouts, but my body has really gotten used to all the easy runs. I know I’ll get back to where I was before, it just feels frustrating when it doesn’t happen as quickly as you’d expect!

    1. Spring running feels so much lighter after running outside in winter – fewer layers! You’ll definitely be back to where you were soon, and soon those harder workouts will feel more natural! I’m excited to see how you do in the 10K.

    1. I hope it does also for you! It should – may there be partly cloudy skies, pleasant temperatures, and most of all NO wind on Saturday for your race! Oh and the sun will be so welcome after all of this rain and wind and gray.

  6. These days it seems like “Spring” is about a week long. Every year it seems to go straight from the dreary end of winter to 75 degrees and 95% humid literally overnight, and always right in time for everyone’s Spring goal races – lucky us.

    I am in an interesting place because my Spring goal race is right in the middle of the season, and I’m not sure what my next plans are. Most of my Spring will be spent recovering while everyone else is building up. Once again I find myself the night to the rest of the running world’s day.

    1. The first paragraph —> why we moved from the Midwest. There never seemed to be any fall or spring, which are my favorite seasons. I hope the humidity stays at bay until after your marathon! Oh and I hear you on being opposite on most of the running world. With a half in March and a marathon in July I feel like I’m racing before most people start training.

  7. These are great tips! I am enjoying the weather but NOT the darker mornings–that’s killing me! I have a half marathon this Sunday and another in May–after that, I’ll simply be trying to maintain a decent base but don’t want to lose the speed I’ve built, so these tips are super helpful!

  8. My favorite part is running on Cougar Mountain when the trees have those young, electric green leaves and the sun is filtered through the trees. Heaven!

    I’m signed up for the Tiger Mountain Trail Half Marathon in April (I’m not at all prepared, but it’s just for fun) and the Beacon Rock 25K in June.

  9. Strength training! I’m all about it! I’ve also been trying to get outdoors for runs on every nice day. I usually do my speed work on the treadmill, but if it’s nice, I’ll take it outside and change up my speed between difference landmarks.

  10. We’re actually into what most people consider summer weather (low 90s), though the mornings are still nice. I am still building my base, but I think I’ll take your suggestion and add a little fartlek. With about 3 weeks to go until my next 5k, I can use a little quickness in my legs. Thanks for linking up!

  11. I already ran my spring-ish half marathon – I run better the colder it is (I ran my 10K PR when it was 2 degrees and that was my most comfortable race ever), so I actually transition to spring run by cutting back mileage a little and focusing on the strength + injury prevention part. My next races probably won’t be until trail running season, which seems to start around June here.

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