TREADMILL RUNNING vs. OUTDOOR RUNNING
Which is better?
Today, it was a treadmill run that won out. After doing a complete 360 degree spin out in my car on the way to the gym--in my neighborhood no less, the decision was made to stay inside to run. It wasn't all that cold or windy; in fact, it felt pleasant--when I wake up in the morning, I am VERY warm, so the cold fresh air felt good. But the deciding factor was the black ice. Lots of accidents here again today. I lucked out and didn't hit anything; another time this happened to me was on the highway and I didn't hit anything that time either, but it was probably one of the scariest moments in my driving career. You don't realize how little control you have over your car on ice until it happens. Having dealt with this before, I knew enough to just let the car go until it stops. But I soon got dizzy waiting for it to stop spinning. And then it was almost impossible to straighten out the car to get going again because of the ice. Just a light dusting of snow over the top of an ice skating rink.
Today was also supposed to be a hill repeat day. And while most of the downtown streets have the heated sidewalk factor, those areas are completely flat. To get to the hilly area, it is dark and mostly lacking in pedestrian or car traffic at that time of day, so it isn't the most practical place to be running on an icy cold morning. And I'm not sure how clear those sidewalks are on a day like today.
I started reading about treadmill v. outdoor running, and which is better. I really hate to start wimping out this early in the season by staying inside, but the safety factor is more important to me than anything else. So here's the scoop on indoor v. outdoor running:
1. Speed control: Controlling your speed is key to running consistently for a distance or time. For those new to treadmill running, this is a tough one. When you’re new to running, controlling your speed is difficult. I find that most people run faster on a treadmill than they would on the road, so while running on the treadmill allows you to set the speed and let things roll, its important to keep a consistent speed, and that can be a challenge. Treadmills do, however, help you develop speed control. Thats one up for the treadmill.
2. Real motion: I’ve yet to come across a treadmill that feels the same as running outside. They might be close, but running out in the open is an experience that is hard to simulate-the exertion, the feel of the ground, and the exact muscle work. The hardest thing to simulate is running form. From all I've read and practiced, I find it is easier to do the Chi Running slight lean and run towards the front of the machine, rather than running totally upright. It forces you to adjust your pace that way so that you don't have to hang on or get thrown off. But when you add to that the acclimation to the temperature, you want to train in weather you're likely to race in. To simulate the exertion of running on ground, its recommended to keep the treadmill at a 1% incline. So, this factor one goes to running outside.
3. Simulating new geography: If you live in a flat area, and want to train for hills, the best way is to run on a treadmill at a hill incline. Or vice versa, if you’re in a hilly area, its hard to simulate flat runs. So, treadmills wins this factor hands down. Today's hill repeats were done at a 2.5% grade. Five repeats of only .10 distance, but I will work up to the .20 distance recommended and start sooner into my run.
4. Speed Change-Sprints/Intervals: Sprints and interval training are a great workout to incinerate your fat. Intervals on the treadmills can be distracting, since you have to keep pressing those buttons at the end of every interval, to change your speed. Its kind of annoying than just using your legs to slow down, where you would actually use more muscle in running on the ground, to increase or decrease your speed. In fact using your legs to increase or decrease your speed actually helps to work more muscle. Its even more annoying to simulate sprints on a treadmill. Sprints are a fantastic way to burn fat! So, this one goes to running outside.
5. Climate/Environmental Control: And last but not least, weather and location play a big factor in which is the best choice for me. For obvious reasons, indoors for me in this climate in the winter is better; even sprints/intervals are easier inside than out. But I do think the cold weather helps burn more calories in the same amount of time when running outside. Safety is also a factor, whether its running alone in the dark, morning or night, or slipping or falling on ice or snow. So this one is an obvious one for me.
Its always a long winter season here, but at least I'm feeling somewhat better and less wimpy about running inside. I do hope to get some outside running in, especially long runs, but I never know how the season will go. Last year it was so snowy and icy; the year before extremely cold and recovering from injury, so not much outside winter running these last 2 years. They say global warming is happening, but I have yet to believe that's true for this part of the country. But it would be nice just once to have a balmy, sunny, and warm winter! No excuses then for not continuing regular fitness.