A story of going from being a non-runner to planning for a marathon in three years...

Sunday, February 22, 2009

In and out and in and out

Click on pictures to see them larger

When I woke up yesterday morning and looked outside, the picture on the left is what greeted me. I debated all morning about whether or not to run outside or to do my 8 miles on the treadmill. After running a few errands in the 20oF weather and the 10 to 15 MPH winds and the blowing snow, I decided the treadmill was where it was at.

Three Tivoed episodes of Jeopardy, one packet of Sports Beans, a lot of water, 86 minutes and 8 miles later I was done. And I got to thinking about Kate's question as to which I like better: treadmill running or running outside.

When I first started running off and on in 2006, I did it exclusively on the treadmill. I tried a few walk/jog intervals outside with the dog, but even when I could run a mile on the treadmill I could never make it a full mile outside. In fact, I remember the summer I decided I was going to learn to run outside. I distinctly recall being incredibly disappointed when I failed to run the mile from my house to the Walgreens up the street. I couldn't understand if I could run a mile or more on the treadmill why that didn't translate to being able to run outside.

I think it was about pacing. On the treadmill, you don't have to think about it. You just set it and forget it. If you feel like you're going too fast, you just push some buttons and it slows you down and keeps you there. Outside is much more difficult. You have to continually tell yourself to start slow and go slow otherwise you burn yourself out too quickly. Unless you have a fancy GPS-gadget (which I didn't have when I first started running) or you've measured your route down to every quarter mile and time yourself, there's really no way to constantly know your pace. It's easy to find yourself running too fast but not realizing it until it's too late.

So, for quite awhile I was a person who could run on the treadmill but couldn't run outside. In theory as I got better and better on the treadmill I suppose I could have transitioned to outside more easily. But, instead, I joined the Beginning Women's Running Group and made a vow to do all my training runs outside. Joining the group was a godsend. Running with others helped me pace myself and figure out what was too hard and what was too easy. It helped me learn to run outside.

Now, when given the option, I'll always choose outside over the treadmill. But, I have some caveats. I think I've mentioned them before. Cold and dry? I'm out there. Warm and wet? I'm out there (except for when there's lightening). Warm and dry? That's my favorite. Cold and wet? That's when I hit the treadmill.

I think the main difference between treadmill running and running outdoors is the mental aspect. When you're doing an outdoor out-and-back run or a big loop you know you have to get back to your car/house/starting point. You can't just stop, step off the treadmill, and go on about your life. No, you have to cover those miles one way or another. But on the treadmill it's easy to hit the stop button and get off. You have to mentally commit to covering the distance.

So, for me, the treadmill is a tool to be used when running outside isn't feasible. Now that I know how to run outside, I'll always prefer it over staring at the same spot on the wall for any length of time. Even if that spot on the wall is showing Jeopardy.

1 comment:

kilax said...

I prefer to run outside too. But with our crappy Chicagoland weather, I've been on the treadmill since the end of November. SPRING, please come soon!

(I am here via Chic Runner :) )

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