Thank goodness it's spring. It's 43 degrees in Chicago, and already shorts are the fashion must for lakefront running. Chicagoans are certainly ready to get moving again. But, if you're just restarting after a long winter on the couch, it's important to remember a few tips to get you back in shape safely.
1) Work at your current fitness level. If you haven't been biking or running all winter, it's time to return to some low intensity exercise. That means keeping your workload lighter, or working at an intensity where you could hold a conversation while you exercise. This doesn't have to last forever, but just enough where you can build to an effort so that you can sustain an even pace without fading at the end of a workout.
2) Build slowly. The 10% rule is a great rule for building volume and intensity. Add no more than 10% each week if you haven't been moving. More experienced athletes can add slghtly more volume faster, but it is better to be smart than ruin your season because you ran too far or fast in March.
3) Check your equipment. If you're heading back on your bike, make sure your bike is tuned and ready to go. Double check your saddle bag for extra tubes, pump, etc. in case you need them. Also, check the cables including brake cables to make sure you are ready to ride.
4) Know the weather. It is certainly nicer than January, but March and April can bring rain, snow (ugh) and strong winds, so plan accordingly, and wear what you need to stay warm and dry. Especially on the lakefront, plan to do work hard work into the wind first! I call this "wind direction smarts" and it simply means you run into the wind first so that you have the wind at your back for the end of your workout. It also helps that negative split.
5) Bonus - March means the water fountains are being turned on and bathrooms are opening, so you'll have more available stops than the Shedd, Navy Pier, Lincoln Park Zoo and St. Joe's.
Enjoy the spring and get back into racing shape!