This post has been scheduled for a while, so it’s pure coincidence that I’m publishing it just a day after Snowpocalypse 2015…or am I psychic? Either way, it’s perfectly timed to give you advice on when to choose the treadmill.
Now, I am no Kim Turner – there’s no way you’ll find me running a cool 45 miles (!!) on a treadmill in one workout. But ever since the ridiculous polar vortex winter of 2013-14, the treadmill and I have agreed to set aside our differences and have a little mutual respect and courtesy for each other.
Sometimes, it’s obvious when you need to choose the treadmill. You’re home alone with a sick child who just went down for a nap and you have a treadmill? Then you don’t need me to tell you now’s a good time to use it! But when you’re struggling to decide between heading out to your favorite trail, or the nearest gym, this is a good guide to keep handy.
There are 5 criteria that are important to consider when you’re deciding to run indoors or outside. You know your comfort level best, so listen to your gut. When it comes to safety, though, if you’re wavering, it’s usually a better idea to take your workout inside.
One runner’s light shower is another runner’s torrential downpour. If you’re used to running in the rain, the snow, the heat – basically in extremes – and you’re well prepared, then there shouldn’t be a reason to choose the treadmill. Here are the questions to consider when it comes to weather conditions:
- Have you run in these conditions before?
- Are you prepared for running in those conditions? (For example, do you have the appropriate clothing, gear, fuel, water?)
- Do you know what it actually feels like outside, beyond the number on the temperature gauge? Remember, humidity and wind chill are both factors that can make a run brutal.
It’s usually a simple decision in your own neighborhood when assessing the safety of your run. You know the area, you know your routes, you know when you feel safe and when you don’t. When deciding if it’s safe to run outdoors, keep these points in mind:
- Do you know this area well? Is there a chance you will get lost? Do you know if there are any areas it may be unsafe to run?
- What are the roads and trails like? Adequately lit? Heavy car traffic? Well populated by other runners, walkers and cyclists? Are there shoulders to run, or lots of blind corners? Are trails well-marked?
- Consider the time of day – if it’s pre-dawn, night, or dusk, will you be visible to drivers? Have you run that route at that time of day before and feel comfortable?
When it comes to safety concerns, I’m a big believer in really listening to your instinct. If there’s any part of you that feels a little off about a planned run, head to the treadmill. Check out these great posts as well: Self Defense Classes and Tips for Runners, from rUnladylike, Safety Tips for Female Runners from You Signed Up for What? and 9 Crucial Safety Tips for Runners, from my column on The Stir.
There’s nothing worse than doing an out-and-back and realizing at the turnaround point, when you’re furthest from home, that you don’t have as much time as you anticipated. This is one of several things to consider when deciding between running outside and on a treadmill when it comes to timing:
- Do you run by mileage or time? Can you pace yourself appropriately for either an out-and-back, or a loop route to make sure you don’t run out of time?
- Are you coming back from an injury, or starting to feel a little niggle somewhere? Can you be sure you’ll be okay to complete your outdoor run?
Obviously, if you have no time commitments, then you may as well stick to outdoors – even if you’re slower than planned, or you need to rest or stretch for a bit, or you just want to soak in a view, then you have no worries. But if you’re trying to squeeze in a run in a jam-packed day, weigh up your options first.
Runner’s World gives you pros and cons of time versus distance: Running for Time vs. Distance. And just for fun: If a girl goes for a run without GPS – did the run really happen?
I don’t mind doing speed work on a treadmill because it keeps me from getting bored. A long run inside would be my idea of hell. But every runner is different – if you know you can run forever on a treadmill when you can throw a towel over the display and not think about it again, then a long run workout would be a good time to choose the treadmill. Some other thoughts on choosing the right option for workout type:
- How accustomed are you to what a certain pace feels like? If you’re new to speed work and intervals, you may want to try it on a treadmill first so you can get your confidence level up at fast paces before heading outside.
- Likewise, if you don’t have access to a track, or you’re finding it impossible to map out a particular interval distance, like 600 meters, on a flat surface outside, it may be a good time to take that workout indoors where the math is taken care of for you.
Finally, what’s your motivation for your run today? What do you want to achieve – a meditative state? A solid workout? Just want some time to yourself? Consider your motivation when choosing the treadmill:
- What are you running for? Going for a run because you feel like it is a different proposition than training for a race. If you can simulate race conditions by running outside, then that’s your best bet. If you’re running for fitness, or just because you feel like it, then the treadmill is a viable option.
- Do you have your best runs outside, or indoors with distractions?
- What do you feel like doing today? Sometimes I’m not bummed out if I know I can’t get out for a run until the evening, because I can OD on HGTV on the treadmill TVs. But if the weather’s gorgeous, I might try to rearrange my time so I can take advantage of the park.
When do you choose the treadmill?
What else would you add to this list?
Has there ever been a time when you regretted your choice either to run outside or indoors?