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Making running your primary mode of exercise can prove to be a bit problematic because it puts your fitness at the mercy of the elements. Running on a crisp Fall afternoon is a lot different than trying to hit the roads for a great run in the heat of a scorching August day; or in the frigid chill of a snowy January. Luckily, dedicated runners have developed ways to keep improving their skill and strength even when Mother Nature is not on their side.

When the weather outside is chilly, runners often have trouble keeping their muscles warm enough, which can lead to injury. Cold increases stiffness, which makes muscles less flexible and responsive, and therefore more vulnerable to trauma. If you are set on running outdoors during the winter, you should plan on investing in some new running gear that will help you protect yourself against the dangers of cold weather. Shoes with enough traction to handle slippery patches of ice, and a good pair of athletic pants that will wick away your sweat while keeping your legs warm, are two crucial parts of safe winter running.

Many runners are firm believers that the great outdoors is the best place to run, and the benefits of sunshine and fresh air are certainly important. However, when the climate is inhospitable for running because of snow, excessive heat, slippery wet ground, or any number of other factors, it is often a better idea to hit the gym rather than the streets.

Another item to consider is hydration, many runners who are not anticipating the effects of the weather on their hydration levels end up facing symptoms that range from temporary discomfort to very serious problems that can land even the fittest runner in the hospital. It is crucial to carry a bottle of water or a sports drink on your run with you. Because the stomach can only absorb a limited amount of fluid at a time, it is equally important to keep feeding your body liquid throughout the day in order to gradually replenish the water that you will inevitably lose on your run.

Running on a treadmill is an option, but realize that running on a treadmill is easier on the body because the treadmill is moving your feet for you. It is often recommended to increase the incline by 1-2 percent in order to add a level of difficulty and of course, just because you are running on a treadmill you should always use good form. Including the correct pose and pull into your treadmill workout is a must, but obviously the need to use gravity for the fall isn’t as critical. Remember the treadmill is a tool and not a replacement for your training if your goal is to eventually run an outdoor event, but it is certainly a way to go as our weather gets less and less condusive to safety outdoors.