By Christine Blanchette
Treadmill runners are warm and safe from sometimes nasty outdoor conditions, sweating up a storm while watching TV or listening to music with a nice fan blowing soothing breezes, and an energy drink and fuzzy towel an arms length away.
This year, with much of North America hit with frigid temperatures, many outdoor runners turned to treadmills or cross training for fitness’ sake. Yet the roads and trails beckon, and if you’re an outdoor runner in the Pacific Northwest, now may be the time to get back on course.
Indeed, springtime brings big marathons like Boston, therefore training outdoors for a race could be more beneficial by duplicating the constant pounding of the pavement and feeling the wind resistance. Otherwise, your legs are unlikely to be equipped to handle the cruelties that tough marathons are known for inflicting.
Doug Milne, communications manager for the PGA Tour and an avid runner, describes the pros of running outdoors.
“I prefer it to treadmills when time and weather allows, and when I’m in a safe area,” he said in a recent email interview. ” I value the scenery, natural elements and just being outside. One sees more when running outside and experiences more visually. I find it a bit more challenging on my joints, but rarely to the point to where I need to stop. I enjoy passing by other walkers and runners when I’m outside, as well as natural elevation changes. You just don’t get that on a treadmill in a hotel or fitness center. I value and appreciate treadmills a lot, given my time restraints and odd hours available, but given the choice, I’d always prefer to run outside.”
One clear benefit of training on the treadmill is you can watch how many calories you burn.
“Some people are of the mindset that running on a treadmill is cheating. I disagree,” Milne said. “I run an average of 1,500 miles a year. Of those, I say 40 per cent are treadmill miles. Treadmills get bad raps for two reasons. People say they’re boring or make running easier. I get the boring part, and don’t even necessarily disagree. However, with my travel schedule, I am oftentimes in hotels and in areas that are not safe to run outside due to traffic, darkness, etc. Sometimes I just don’t have time for anything but a treadmill. That said, I can get past the boring part. I’d rather be bored and run for 45 minutes than not run at all. As for treadmills being easier, they do set a pace you keep up with, are located in climate-controlled areas and are a lot less stressful on joints. That doesn’t make them easier to me. To compensate, I run faster on treadmills than I do outside. I run about 7:25 per mile on the road. On a treadmill, I speed it up to about 7:10 per mile. The bottom line is, sweat, an elevated heart rate and endorphin rush don’t discriminate. At the end of a run, those elements don’t know if you’ve been a road or a treadmill. Treadmills can be very convenient when time and/or weather is a factor. I am very grateful for treadmills.”
The choice is up to you. To successfully transition from treadmill to outdoors, you may want to alternate a few workouts before going it alone on the outside. And if you find the cool, fresh air filling your lungs exhilarating, it could mean it’s time to pull the plug and say goodbye to the treadmill.
Christine Blanchette is an avid runner and freelance writer who lives in Burnaby, B.C. Follow her blog at christineruns.com.
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