» Chart a Course

Chart a Course

“All you need is the plan, the road map, and the courage to press on to your destination.” – Earl Nightingale

Now that you have set your goals, bought your gear, and established a schedule, you need to figure out where to run. When it comes to running, you have a lot of options:

Treadmill – If you have access to a treadmill, you have a convenient place to run regardless of temperature, weather, and time of day. Treadmills tend to absorb shock, so they are easier on your legs than running on hard streets and sidewalks. You can simply set your pace, watch your distance and time, and run. Pretty easy, but also pretty monotonous – especially for long runs.

Street / Sidewalk – Most people have access to streets and sidewalks for running, but not all locations are well-suited for running. Running outdoors gives you variety and allows you to control and monitor your own pace. Running on hard surfaces can be hard on your feet and legs, so be careful to avoid injury and leave time in between runs for recovery. One great benefit of running on streets is that you can plan your route in advance or retrace your route afterward using Google maps. One great caution is that you need to be especially careful to avoid traffic. You must contend with both pollution and the chance of being hit, so choose areas with little traffic and be extra careful at intersections.

Developed Trails – Developed trails are typically found at parks. They are often made of pressed stone, like gravel. These trails offer softer surfaces for your legs, making you less prone to injury. Developed trails can be some of the most picturesque places to run. Many developed trails have signs that will guide you regarding your distance. If they do not, you can use a GPS watch or smart phone with a running app to check your distance. Running at developed trails provides clean air, a nice running surface, and a welcome break from traffic.

Wooded Trails – Some more adventurous runners like running on wooded trails. Trail runners generally run at a slower pace, since they need to jump over and run around various natural obstacles. If you choose trail running, find someone to run with you, since you are more likely to fall and need assistance. Also be sure to buy trail sneakers, which provide more suitable soles for this rugged style of running.

Running Tracks – Running tracks are great for runners who are serious about measuring out short distances within their run and timing intervals. They are also great for speed drills because of the precise distances. They can also be monotonous for long distances. If you find that running at a track is for you, consider taking rubber bands with you to count the number of laps. Place as many rubber bands on your left wrist as the number of laps you want to run. Each time you complete a lap, transfer a rubber band to your right wrist.

All of the options above are great. When you decide which is best for you, first consider which type of running that interests you the most. If you are having fun, you will hold your interest in running and stick with it. Second, look at which options are available to you. You may not have convenient access or a suitable schedule for some of the options. Third, consider changing where you run occasionally to add variety and to challenge yourself in new ways.

Quick Tip: If you have time to run but are unfamiliar with the location and do not have time to plan a route: 1) run in one direction for half of the time that you want to run; 2) turn around; and 3) run back the same route. As you become consistent with your pace, you will have a feel for how far you ran.