Running - some people love it, some people hate it… and some people (like myself) attempt to enjoy it because it’s good for you.
But when you set out to go running, there is one common dilemma that comes to mind - “to run indoors or to run outdoors, that is the question.”
Some of you may think it’s just about the same thing - it’s running at the end of the day. But believe it or not, there is a LOT of difference between the two. Not just in terms of your surroundings, but the overall focus on your body and the muscles that you use.
Let’s start with the obvious - running indoors is SAFER. Especially if you’re living in the city - it really is the safer choice. When you’re on a treadmill, you set your own pace, you set the incline and you just run your way to that KM goal you’re looking for. Seems pretty straightforward - and it is.
As for how the treadmill affects your body - well, it’s better for your lower joints such as your knees, hips and ankles (we all know that running in general can be bad for your knees) - on a treadmill, your run is a little more cushioned than in the outdoors because of the belt - a constant, level straight with no potholes and uneven ground to go over.
FUN FACT: Did you know running on the treadmill activates your hamstrings more than when you run outdoors? According to a running coach at the Boston Running Center, "On a treadmill, your stride mechanics also differ which helps to provide the backwards pull of the leg" (source)
If you’re a newbie to running and pushed yourself to join your first marathon (a lot of us had that in our new year’s resolution) - you can still train using a treadmill - but it is recommended that you run on an incline at a steady pace, in order to get to your target. Because the time/distance you run on a treadmill is definitely going to be very different once you get to the outdoors.
There’s nothing like running in the fresh morning air - but to add the facts in, running outdoors uses more of your strength and stamina than running on the treadmill. It’s you and your own pace - nothing set, all just focused on how you are going to push yourself. Your time/distance goal when running outdoors is set and done by you. There is no machine to get your through that last 500 metre push.
Going outdoors means you won’t be running on a constant flat ground - you’ll run over different kinds of inclines (uphill or downhill sometimes) and you’ll also have to jump a little here and there to avoid those pesky (and potentially dangerous) potholes. For a safer and more ‘controlled’ environment, you should check out the local parks in the areas near you.
Another plus point to running outdoors is the fact that you can run with your friends (you can do this indoors too), but there’s something about going out to the park with your friends. If your friend is competitive, then even better; you can help each other reach your running goals. (Plus, a little chit chat makes that extra kilometre a little easier).
If you’ve already been running indoors, try running outdoors once in a while to see how well you’re actually doing. When you get out, you start to notice your own habits and how different your body functions throughout the run - different muscles start to ache, different things come to mind.
If you’re still unsure about which is best for you then dip your feet in both of these options. It’s the only way you’ll get a feel and taste of what you’d enjoy more.
Personally, running outdoors helps me focus more and generally clears my mind. Whereas running on a treadmill feels like I’m running against time, seeing numbers go up (or down) and I’m pretty much focusing on my own reflection in the window. But when I’m outdoors, I feel like there are no limits.
At the end of the day, the decision is yours - but either option is going to be better than sitting on your couch watching re-runs of your favourite series and munching on unhealthy snacks. Get up and go run!