Treadmill versus outdoors

Late last week I received an email from a person I’ve recently met and encouraged to run/walk this year’s Intertrust Cayman Marathon.

Their email read as follows: “So I ran outside today. First time I have ever run outside, ever. In 29 years.

“It was really hard. Really hard! Waaaaay different than the treadmill. I was immediately out of breath. I was so disappointed in myself. I basically would run till I couldn’t breathe. Then I would have to walk. Did I just waste a month on the treadmill? I am freaking out. I was literally shocked by how winded I was. “Please give me words of wisdom.”

Now I’m not sure how much wisdom I was able to provide, but the first portion of my response advised the emailer to take a deep breath and then to step back and take a moment to commend themselves for a) getting off the couch and exercising and b) for getting off the treadmill and hitting the road.
The health benefits achieved from exercising and the confidence gained from facing a fear are both positive actions and need to be recognised as such. However, my friend couldn’t see the trees for the forest.

They truly believed they had bitten off more than they could chew and were under the impression they couldn’t possibly complete a half marathon eight weeks from now and had accomplished naught to date.

This is a perfect example of the fear we all experience as we venture outside our comfort zone in pursuit of a lofty goal. I get the fear at least once a week as I prepare for 26 November. Uncertainty can be nerve racking. Just ask anyone crazy enough to invest in the current stock markets.

However, we need to keep in mind that dwelling outside our comfort zone is where we grow as a person and as a runner/walker/athlete. We also need to remember you don’t have to run 13 miles this week or the next. You still have time to build. It is very likely that the first time you’ll ever complete 13.1 miles is on 4 December. Don’t believe me? Check what Hal Higdon has to say on the subject.

There is plenty of debate on the use of treadmills as a training partner and when you are an ultra distance runner who resides in the Caribbean, they are a necessary alternative to outdoor running.

I usually run on one at least once a week. You can workout while watching TV on a treadmill. I’ve consecutively watched the better part of the first three Indiana Jones movies while running on one. The smooth cushioned surface of the treadmill is easier on the joints than pavement and running/walking indoors can shelter you from extreme heat or torrential downpours.

However, most runners/walkers enjoy the freedom of running outdoors, not to mention the changing scenery and fresh air. It is generally more challenging to run outdoors than to run on a treadmill, which is a positive for those concerned with burning calories.

Finally, outdoor running can take you on almost infinite routes and allow you see something new with every run.

One of the big differences between the two activities is pace setting. On a treadmill pacing is very easy – you push a button and move your legs accordingly.

However, when you run outside, you don’t have the luxury of a pace setter – you rely on your instincts, a watch or an experienced runner in order to achieve consistency. That’s why it’s such a pleasure to train with experienced runners who can set a consistent pace mile after mile.

For beginner runners, I would recommend you try the Wednesday night running club. It was established to encourage beginning runners to get off the treadmill and onto the roads.

For the past few weeks I’ve trained with the beginning runners/walkers as a pace setter and my motto is no runner/walker gets left behind. We hope to see you next Wednesday.

James Murray is training to run 100 miles around Grand Cayman on 26 November as part of his “A Crazy Idea” campaign. He hopes to get Cayman running also and is joining forces with the Caymanian Compass each week to provide training tips for those who want to move outside their comfort zone and attempt to complete their first half marathon (13.1 miles).” On a treadmill pacing is very easy. You push a button and move your legs accordingly. 

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