City living definitely has its perks. 24-hour grocery stores. Good food. Nice bars. Not to mention the museums and music.
But for the avid runner, a city can seem like the worst environment to workout in. Car exhaust. Traffic sounds. Pavement for miles and miles. But don't fret. There are easy steps you can take to making your city runs fun and enjoyable. Check out our 5 tips for running in a city.
1. High Visibility
When you're hitting the pavement, make sure you use brightly colored or reflective clothing, especially if you run in the pre-dawn or post-sunset time frames. Don't assume that cars and motorcycles can see you. High-visibility vests with reflective strips are the best bet, especially if the rest of your gear is darker.
Some of us get up super early to hit the pavement before work. Others run in the evenings as a way to wind down from a stressful day. Either way, it's also helpful to run with a headlamp – it helps you see uneven sidewalks and potholes. A lot of hiking headlamps are bulky and don't say in place when running. But there are newer models out there specifically designed for running in a city.
2. Gear Up
If you live in a city, most likely the majority of your runs will be on asphalt and concrete. These harder surfaces can be the least forgiving to run on. They can lead to injuries like shin splints and stress fractures as repeated impact will give significant shock to your feet and legs. Concrete is the most common surface – most sidewalks are made of it. But it's also the hardest and least forgiving surface to run on. Asphalt is what most roads are paved with. It's more forgiving than concrete. Many urban running trails are asphalt.
The harder surfaces that are part of running in a city mean that your footwear needs to have proper structure and cushioning. The first step is choosing running shoes that match your gait and running lifestyle. You should also make sure they have enough support to withstand concrete and asphalt. The next step is to insert running insoles. Proper running insoles will provide the extra structure and support to help reduce the shock of harder surfaces.
3. Map Your Run
Sometimes it's nice to just lace up your shoes and hit the pavement, letting your whim (and the traffic) guide your route. But running in a city most often requires planning. A random route can end in frustration as you hit what seems like every red light in town or as traffic noise frustrates your endorphin-driven runner's high. It's always smart to pick your route ahead of time. If you're new to the neighborhood, go online and see where other intrepid runners are headed. Lots of people post their routes with comments on Mapmyrun, Runkeeper, and Strava.
Remember that stoplights and busy intersections can put a damper in your stride. Crossing a road is inevitable in a city, but finding a route along a park or golf course can prove a nice change of pace.
4. Watch and Listen
Trail running can seem more dangerous due to rocky terrain. But road running has its fair share of uneven footing. Pay attention to where you're running. Spraining an ankle because of a pothole isn't fun.
Lots of us like to run with headphones, music turned up high. But make sure you're paying attention to your surroundings in an urban environment. A car might be honking at you for a good reason. Of course, it's always good to be aware of your surroundings, especially if you're running alone early in the morning or later in the evening.
5. Work it on the Weekend
Does getting up an extra hour early on Wednesday morning to get in some extra miles before work cause you dread? Save your long run for the weekend. Plan out your weekly runs with some off days during the week (especially days when you have a big meeting or other energy-draining work activity). If you try to get one longer run in per week, fit it in on Saturday or Sunday. This has two upsides. 1. You won't be losing any extra sleep to try to cram in a 10-mile run. 2. It will give you the time to do a route you don't usually take due to weekday time constraints. Drive out or take the train to a park that's a trek during the week but not a problem when you have time to spare on the weekend.
There's an added bonus to getting out to nature on the weekends. When you pound the pavement running in a city Monday through Friday, your body will welcome the softer surface of grass or dirt. Your joints will thank you for deciding to do your long run on a trail – and not the sidewalk.
Running in a City – A Short List
Some of our favorite urban running spots include:
- Griffith Park in Los Angeles
- Golden Gate Park in San Francisco
- Prospect Park in Brooklyn
- Central Park in Manhattan
- Rock Creek Park in Washington D.C.
- Charles River in Boston
- Piedmont Park in Atlanta
- Beachfront bike path in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
- Costanera Sul Ecological Reserve in Buenos Aires, Argentina
Help us expand our list. Are you a dedicated runner living in an urban jungle? What are your favorite urban routes? Share your thoughts in our comments section below.