Spring's the perfect time to pick up the pace – or the pieces – of your running regime. The weather's warming up, and runners' diaries will be packed with top racing opportunities over a huge range of distances and terrains.
Whether you're worried about leaving the treadmill, fitting running into a jam-packed diary or dehydrating in the heat, grab the opportunity to have a spring clean while the weather's nice and the race calendar is bulging.
Try something new and refocus your running, ready for the rest of the year. By the time summer arrives you'll be able to see a real difference.
I'm used to running on a treadmill, and worried that running outside will be much harder. Plus I'm dreading being on public view!
Treadmills are a very soft and easy surface to run on – so it's generally a good idea to recreate outdoor conditions as much as possible on the treadmill by setting it to a 1% incline or increasing the speed slightly, to adapt slowly to outdoor running. When you do get going outside, gradually get yourself used to the change by starting on a soft surface like grass or trails.
If you'd feel more comfortable with company, why not team up with a friend? Get them to show you their favourite route, or join a club, which guarantees you running buddies, great routes and expert advice and coaching.
And remember, people will generally be too wrapped up in themselves to notice you. Concentrate instead on the positive – if the world can see you, you can see the world! After running in front of the telly in the gym, the changing scenery on your new routes will leave you no chance to get bored or worry about what other people are thinking.
I need to run first thing in the morning. But not only is it hard to get up so early, I'm worried that running first thing will be slow and put me at risk of injury.
Start slowly and let the run come to you – walk first, gently jog and then speed up until you hit the right pace. Your muscles will have warmed up by the time you run full pelt, and you won't demand too much of stiff muscles, which can cause injury. To avoid muscle soreness later on, warm down thoroughly and stretch after running.
Nutrition is also key for early-morning runners. Have an early breakfast so you don't conk out halfway round, and drink plenty of water before you leave. If you can't face eating so early, take a sports drink or a banana smoothie to sip as you run, and make sure you refuel within 20 minutes of finishing your run.
And you can feel suitably smug – runners bottle out of training sessions later in the day as reasons not to run stack up. Morning runners tend to miss fewer sessions and feel satisfied for the rest of the day having already ticked off their training.
As the weather gets warmer, do I need to drink more?
Studies have shown that fluid loss has twice the negative effect on cardiac performance in hot weather as it does in cold weather. To maintain your performance you therefore need to pay special attention to your hydration needs.
As it gets warmer, it's a good idea to do a sweat test (weigh yourself before and after your run to see how much fluid you've lost). As the temperature increases, your body will lose more fluid as sweat, leaving you more at risk of dehydration, and a sweat test will let you know exactly how much you need to take in to replace it.
As temperatures rise, the combination of this dehydration plus a higher body temperature leads to lowered aerobic performance. Your heart rate will increase, and more blood will be diverted to the skin to cool you down – which means there's less blood available to take oxygen and fuel to your busy muscles. So take it easy, keep an eye on your heart rate and make sure you've got a bottle of water to hand – or even better, a sports drink that contains rehydrating electrolytes.
After a winter without much running, how can I regain my old form and enthusiasm?
There's some truth in that old running adage, "the difference between a jogger and a runner is a completed entry form" – very little does more for your motivation that the thought of lining up for a race underprepared. You might be raring to get out on the track for the summer athletics season, looking for a new-year PB, or focusing on an autumn marathon. Either way, now's the time to get planning – there are plenty of choices in the UK racing calendar or that once-in-a-lifetime race overseas.
If you're not ready to train for a race, focus on the quality of your running rather than obsessing about the quantity. Diving into daily speedwork would almost definitely be disastrous for your training, but why not give a new training session, technique or route a try? If you're in a training rut, sprinkle your routine with one of these sessions every now and again.
Fun Fartlek: Run alternately at a sprint, jog and walk between trees – unless you're in the woods! In which case, use other stationary objects. Or if you're in the urban jungle, every time you're passed by a red car start running fast. Slow down when you're passed by another, and so on. The unpredictability of these fartlek workouts will keep your interest high, as well as the quality of your training.
Magical Mystery Tour: Stop plodding those same old well-worn paths. Instead, why not get a friend to drive you somewhere and drop you off? You'll definitely finish the session – how else will you get home?
Give it a month and see the difference in your enthusiasm when you inject some excitement into your routine.
Spring is the runner’s dream training time, with its cool weather and racing opportunities. So get outside for all the joys of the season – we guarantee it’ll put the spring back into your step!