The sun is shining. The birds are singing. And finally, the brutal, slushy winter has given way to a glorious promised land of fresh tulips and green grass.
Now that the snow has melted, so have your excuses for spending your evenings and weekends pinned to your couch. The late-day sunshine begs you to go on a run, or pull out that bike that’s been taking up space all winter. Whether you’re a seasoned outdoorist or a newbie looking for a bit of motivation, here are some warm-weather tips from Lawrence running and biking gurus.
Take it easy at first
“The one piece of advice that has worked for me is to start with run/walk,” says Susie Fagan, a long-time runner and employee at Ad Astra. “Don’t just go out and run three miles, because you might feel good at that time. But the next day you’re not going to feel great.”
Fagan says everyone should “find their little ratio” between running and walking to get started, and build up to running for longer periods of time. Once you’ve built up to distance runs, Fagan says soft surfaces are going to be the easiest on your body.
“Ideally, you’d be on softer surfaces more often, but the reality is that most of us live on and near sidewalks,” Fagan says.
If you’re able, the folks at Ad Astra suggest running near the Lawrence Levy or on River Trails, which are mostly soft ground. It’ll reduce stress on your joints and make for a faster recovery time.
The same goes for biking, says life-long cyclist and Sunflower Bike employee Paul Heimbach. Deciding to embark on a 10 mile trip without cycling experience is going to be bad news, especially in the heat. Take your bike for a spin around the neighborhood first, or try the Lawrence loop, a low-incline trail around the city that’s perfect for cyclists or runners.
“There are rideability maps that show the best routes to ride,” Heimbach says.
Safety first, and safety always
You’ve probably rolled your eyes once or twice when your mom shouts “Take your pepper spray!” as you run out the door for a jog around the neighborhood. But, as usual, mom is right. A survey from Runner’s World found that nearly 60 percent of female runners say they’ve been harassed while running.
And it’s not just women. Running alone makes anyone an easy target for crime. Taking a weapon like pepper spray or a taser is a good idea, but at very least, tell a friend where and when you plan to jog or bike and always keep your guard up.
“If you’re by yourself, don’t wear your headphones super loud, you need to be able to hear what’s going on around you,” says James Wilson, a University alum and employee at Ad Astra.
“I always just say trust your gut,” added Fagan. “If you feel like you suddenly get that kind of weird feeling, take a turn, turn around, find a well-lit area.”
When it comes to being aware of your surroundings, cars are a huge factor for runners and cyclists. Every city has their own rules when it comes to bicycles, but in Lawrence bikes are permitted on the regular roadways and generally follow the same rules as cars.
“Roads are definitely not the sole dominion of cars,” Heimbach said. ”A lot of drivers think that, but bikes have been around longer than cars, so we have just as much right to the road as any car.”
Fuel up and cool down
When it comes to exercising in warm weather there are three cardinal rules:
While it’s not beneficial to chug down a gallon before embarking on a jog, it is helpful to make sure you’re drinking enough water throughout the day. This can prevent you from wearing out too quickly, or worse, finding yourself thirsty and stranded far from a water fountain.
When it comes to eating, Wilson suggests avoiding eating a big meal before a run, especially if it’s first thing in the morning. Every person is different, and it may take some trial-and-error to figure out just what foods work best for you.
“If you’re active you can usually eat what you want to an extent,” Fagan says.