Stay Fit: Guide to Running in Southwest Florida
Interested in becoming a runner? Already a runner but need to re-up on your gear? Check out our handy guide to running in Southwest Florida, complete with the latest gear and running apps, a listing of the latest races coming to Southwest Florida, places to run, and more.
Quick Tip: Fuel Up
It may seem redundant to say this, but running burns calories. So you need to have some fuel in the tank to make the most out of a run. To make the most out of that workout, eat about 200 to 400 calories of mostly complex carbs about an hour to an hour and a half before hitting the pavement.
Quick Tip: Warm Up
Don’t just hop off the couch and start running, warm-up those muscles with five-minute walk. Called dynamic stretching—stretching with movements similar to running—this will help warm the muscles up and prevent tightness. If you still want to do traditional stretching—which is great—wait until after the run.
Quick Tip: Stay Hydrated
Staying hydrated does not mean load up on water before a run, rather maintain a steady intake of water before and after your exercise. But how much is enough? For a temperate climate, the Institute of Medicine recommends adequate intake should be roughly 3 liters of beverages a day for men, 2.2 liters for women. A good way to determine if you’re properly hydrated is if you drink enough fluid to the point that you rarely feel thirsty, and your urine is colorless or light yellow, you are on the right track. Remember to drink water with and in between meals, and before, during, and after exercising. When it comes to exercise and running, you need to compensate for the extra fluid loss through sweat. For short workouts, the Mayo Clinic recommends an extra one and half to two and half cups of water (400 to 600 milliliters). If logging a longer run (around the 45 minute range and more), or the weather is hot and humid (the standard for these parts), additional fluids are recommended, particularly ones that contain sodium, like sports drinks.
Quick Tip: Get Acclimated
If you are new to running, it can be a bit of shock when you get out there and realize you can’t keep up like you did as a kid. Take it day by day—it takes about six weeks for your body to acclimate to a running routine. And don’t expect to tackle a multi-mile route right off the bat. Start slowly, with intervals of walking peppered in the run to help from pulling a muscle, cramping, and shin splints to name a few. Couch-to-5K is a great app to help you start a solid running routine, starting off slow and progressively building to a three-mile clip in just eight weeks.
With the temperatures finally beginning to cool, autumn draws many Neapolitans outdoors for some fresh air and exercise. For those in search of more than a casual stroll, running groups like Gulf Coast Runners offer group training to prepare for several races throughout the year. Or, you can strike out on your own. Mitch Norgart, president of the Gulf Coast Runners club shares his favorite running routes in Naples to help you find the perfect path for your pace.
First, remember to invest in a pair of well-fitted (both for your feet and running style) shoes that are comfortable. Norgart also recommends novices start slow with equal amounts of running and walking. Rather than trying for three miles straight, jog for three minutes and walk for one. Over time, walk less until you are ultimately running the entire way. Also, try to run at the same time. By creating a pattern, you’re more likely to turn it into a habit.
Beginners: Start with the two walking trails at Fred W. Coyle Freedom Park (1515 Golden Gate Parkway, 239-252-4062). One offers a scenic lake view and the other ventures into a more wooded area. You can walk or run and finish it as a one-mile round trip, or extend your distance over time. The park is open seven days, but if you want a map in your hands, the office offers them during regular business hours Tuesday to Saturday. Naples Preserve (1690 Tamiami Trail North, 239-261-4290) is another scenic spot that will take you along the boardwalk and through the woods, passing beautiful foliage and maybe even a few gopher tortoises.
Weekend Warriors: Venture over to Lowdermilk Park (1301 Gulf Shore Boulevard North) and run south on Gulf Shore Boulevard all the way to 12th Avenue South. If you turn right, you can walk onto the Naples Pier and then pick up your step and jog along the beach, which will bring you back to the park, covering about five miles round-trip. Another beautiful running path can be found at Gordon River Greenway Park, which reopened last November after a two-year construction project that resulted in a paved nature trail guiding you along the Gordon River.
Advanced Runners: Combine paths to train for marathons or other long-distance races. Norgart recommends starting at Lowdermilk Park and continuing down to the end of Gordon Drive and back, which is about a 10-mile round trip. You can also run Freedom Park and then continue onto Gordon River Greenway and then Naples Preserve and back for about an 8-mile, round-trip run.