Treadmill or Outside Running??

As you know by now, I am originally from north central Iowa…20 minutes south of the Minnesota border. Although we experience VERY cold winters, we have the BEST summers…well, except this year…yes, they set an all time record high this past week! I have always dabbled in running, and back in college as a PE major, I would run in the below zero temps…outside! Of course, I was young, and I do believe your body does adapt to the cold. Fast forward to adulthood…and more specifically, midlife…and I had this dilemma of adapting myself to run in the heat. Not just heat, but the thick humidity that we enjoy in Houston in the summer! I found that I had a harder time adapting to the heat than the cold, but I did it! I think I finally crossed the line when I forced myself to run every day for a year outside. Yes, prior to that, I spent as much time running on a treadmill as I did on the streets. It was a hard, hot year…but I am now acclimated and, although the summer runs are still tough, I get them done! And, have even run a few 5k races each summer!

So, let’s talk about treadmill running. I got serious about running in 2005. I was going through a tough year at work (with a lot of stress) and when I found myself feeling overly tired and just not myself, I decided to see the doctor. I don’t go to a doctor often, as I do not get “sick”, so I chose one that my ex-husband used and made an appointment. After a few tests and some blood work, I was diagnosed with a minor disorder and the doctor told me to stay healthy, exercise regularly, and get plenty of sleep. Well, I know I do not sleep, so I had to ensure that I was doing the other things very well. I decided to start running 5 days per week…and it must have been a time when my ex-husband liked me a little, as he went out and got me a fancy treadmill so I could make it happen!

I LOVED that treadmill! I fell in love with running, and soon began planning for my first half marathon. Here is what I loved about treadmill running:

  • I could run no matter what time of day and I was safe! If I decided to get up at 4 am for a run, I didn’t have to worry about running in the dark and who may be lurking in the bushes!
  • No matter the weather, I was safe and sound on my treadmill! Rain or shine, heat or cold, ice…snow…a hurricane (as long as there was electricity)…I was set!
  • My fancy-ass treadmill had all of the bells and whistles….and I could simulate running on different terrain, different elevations, etc. It was amazing and I felt I was really conditioning my body for my upcoming run.
  • When I work out, I sweat! Probably more than the average person…but on the treadmill, I could crank the AC down and put a fan blowing on me and I was a happy girl!

So, I ran on that treadmill day in and day out to prepare for my first half marathon…and…I probably should have run a little more on the streets. I quickly realized, as I left the start line that cold January morning, I had always been running on a machine that held my pace for me. And, it sure didn’t require my muscles to put in the effort to push me along, as the machine was doing that work for me during my training runs. It was a LONG 13 miles! I finished, of course, but quickly learned that training for number 2 had to be a bit different!

That is how I learned to be an outside, street runner! Yes, the concrete is hard on your body. Yes, it is hot out there! Yes, I had to learn to pace myself. But, after running now for 15 years, I have to say my aging body thanks myself and the effort I put into learning how to run on the mean streets of Houston (haha…I live in a posh neighborhood in the suburbs…but the streets are still concrete!).

Reflecting on all of this, I cannot say treadmill or street running is better or worse than the other. I can say, you pick what works for you! But, think about what your end goal is. If it is to run longer distances, I definitely say train on the terrain you will be running on. If you are an early morning runner, and woman like me for sure, use that treadmill so that you are as safe as can be. There is no right or wrong answer…you do you! I think the most important lesson in all of this…just get out there and run! Stay tuned, my friends!

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