Top 5 Mistakes Runners Make in Early Spring
The changing of seasons from winter to spring brings about a sense of renewal. The weather is warmer; plants, leaves, and flowers blossom. Clocks spring forward, leaving us with more daylight.

Sometimes, the weather can turn very quickly. That's certainly the case with the Mid-Atlantic climate to which I've grown accustomed. In Baltimore, March can bring us record-low temperatures, but an unseasonably warm day immediately after.

Regardless, the beginning of spring brings changes for runners. I've witnessed several runners make a few mistakes amid the newly warm and run-friendly weather. Here are the top five mistakes that runners make when spring has finally sprung:

1. Some runners start their runs too fast.

We get it. The weather is perfect for a run, and you're fired up. You've ditched your running pants and jacket for a pair of shorts and a long sleeve (or maybe short sleeve) shirt. Your muscles aren't frozen thirty seconds into a run. Naturally, you might push the pace early.

But not so fast!

If you had a five-miler planned, but you're huffing and puffing at mile 3, those last two miles might be agonizing. Sure, if your training called for a tempo run that day and you want to push the pace, go for it! Yet, not everyone is ready for a hard workout in early spring.

The body takes some time before it settles in aerobically. Do you ever get the feeling where it seems like you have dialed in a consistent pace? Perhaps everything feels like clockwork? That's the feeling that, in most cases, can lead to the elusive runner's high.

If you want to average 10:00 pace for 5 miles, it's okay to start your run at 10:30 or even 11:00 pace! Trust me: You'll feel much better closing a run in a 9:15 or 9:30 mile than you will sprinting out of the blocks, metaphorically speaking, only to finish dragging at your doorstep.

This goes for elite runners as well. I've seen some local champions try to crank out 6-minute miles early in a run, only to feel a premature burn and fatigue.

If you feel the need to log a hard effort, try a progression run or a "Kenyan run." The purpose of these runs to get incrementally faster at each mile or half mile. Your first mile should be your slowest, and your last mile should be the quickest. Don't treat it like a science. Take it at your own pace and adjust your run as needed.

2. Some runners don't listen to their bodies.

This point goes hand-in-hand with the previous one. It's okay to admit: Some of you may have been hibernating a bit in the winter. Some of you are capable of hitting the ground running (pun intended) when the weather finally turns.

However, this can be a little dangerous.

If you are a spring/summer weather warrior, that's fine. But those first few runs may cause some soreness. Don't push it! Perhaps you feel the need to make up the mileage that you may have missed during the colder months, and you're tuning out your brain when it tells you, "Your body is hurting."

I urge you to take it one step at a time. One of my college cross country coaches insisted that we increase our weekly mileage by 10% until we hit our peak volume. This rule applied to the length of our long runs as well. If you were only averaging 7 miles a week in February, but decide to try a 25-mile week in mid-March, your weekly volume will more than triple. Ask any seasoned, elite runner. They won't average a few 30-mile weeks only to churn through a 100-mile week shortly thereafter because the end result may be an injury.

When your body is telling you that you're sore or very tired, it's okay to pump the brakes. Take the good days with the bad days. Even if your training plan called for a track workout or a 10-mile long run that day, it's okay tone things down for the sake of recovery and mental well-being. You can always try it later in the week.

3. Hydration, hydration, hydration.

In cold weather, we have more leeway in pushing the boundaries of proper hydration. Perhaps you're busy at work. Or maybe you're on the move and forgot your water bottle. When it's chilly outside, we don't perspire as much, leaving us less thirsty.

But as the temperature rises, it is important to remember that it's not as easy to get away with poor hydration.

A properly hydrated system is the difference between:

• "I might add another mile or two." vs. "I'm turning back early today."
• Snappy, fresh legs vs. tired, heavy legs
• An uninterrupted run vs. praying for a water fountain to appear

Most importantly, adequate hydration is the difference between realizing your true fitness versus hanging your head in frustration after a poor run or workout.

If you're at the office, take a quick trip to the water fountain and finish off 16 ounces before lunch, at least. Dehydration can trick the body into thinking it's hungry, causing unnecessary snacking at times.

It might take a couple days to get used to a hydration regimen, but it will be worth it.

4. Signing up for races too soon.

Sometimes signing up for a race can be a knee-jerk reaction. A couple of days of running in, what may seem like, perfect conditions could spontaneously inspire you to pinpoint your next racing venture. Yet, don't forget that you have to put in the miles to be ready on race day. Your training—or even the day of the race—may coincide with a vacation or a family outing. Some matters pop up unannounced.

Choose your race schedule wisely. There are few scenarios more discouraging than having all your training be completed in vain. Sure, you can find an alternate race. Odds are, though, that you really wanted to tackle the first race you chose.

Sure, you need to plan for some races nearly a full year in advance. Lotteries, qualifying times, and the like can be stressful and must be done well in advance of the race itself.

With this in mind, plan for races knowing that obligations will arise, but don't be shy to pull the trigger if registration is exclusive or limited.

5. Try finding a more natural running locale.

I understand that this may not be a possibility for everyone. Some of us are lucky to find the time in the day to simply get outside and go for a quick run.

However, if you do find some extra time, drive to a local trail or nature park. New sights, ample foliage, and an escape from the rat race can be motivation enough for a long, refreshing run. If you are an aficionado of the roads and find yourself running on trails for the first time, be sure to watch your feet and ankles. Tree roots can be your worst enemy.

Additionally, I'd recommend ditching your headphones and MP3 player for a run or two. See what it's like to take in the natural setting with all senses intact. If music is your go-to training partner, try tackling the trails with a friend. For many, conversation at a more leisurely pace helps the time pass more quickly than does music.

No matter where your training takes you, be sure to run smart and to do what you think suits you best. After all, it’s your journey. Happy Spring and good luck with training, everyone!