A lot of runners hate logging miles on a treadmill. They complain that it’s monotonous and boring, and they have a point: when the treadmill says you’ve finished 5 miles but you’re still standing in the same place where you started, the sense of accomplishment and enjoyment can be diminished.
Like most people, I would much rather run outside, too. But I’m also starting to warm up to the value of the treadmill, particularly this time of year when the weather is unpredictable. After being teased earlier this month by a bunch of afternoons in the 50s and 60s that made for perfect running weather, this past week brought a round of snow and much cooler temperatures. I’ve determined this about myself when it comes to running inside vs. outside:
*My threshold, temperature-wise, is about 35 degrees. Anything colder, I’d rather be inside. Thursday afternoon was right on the cusp; I was pressed for time, so I went for a quick training run outside during a lunch break at work. If I hadn’t remembered that I had a sweatshirt in my car (thanks @JohnSharkman), I wouldn’t have gone. It was blustery, but it was only about 4 miles and it felt pretty good (picture of me in action. Sorry for the extreme closeup. I've never taken a good running selfie in my life). That said, if I’m running with our soon-to-be-1-year-old daughter, Anabel, the threshold creeps up to at least 40 degrees, preferably 45 or 50 (particularly if it’s windy). She doesn’t have the benefit of generating body heat while I go, so even if she’s all bundled up I’d rather not subject her to the chill (particularly since she takes off her hat and mittens approximately 2.7 seconds after they get put on her).
*When I run outside, I almost never listen to music. I like to pay attention to what’s going on around me, take in the scenery and notice how my body is feeling. When I run inside I almost always listen to music. It’s more about just pounding out the miles and zoning out while I’m going.
*I’ve come to appreciate our gym membership even more (my wife and I go to Life Time Fitness, which has the added bonus of child care when we work out). It’s a privilege to be able to work out inside when it’s too cold, too wet, too dark or even too hot out. Not everyone has that luxury – sometimes by choice but often times because it just doesn’t fit into their monthly budget (our family membership, including child care, is a little over $100 a month). The security of knowing I will have a place to run on those days that I just don’t deem it feasible to go outside is a great thing. This past Wednesday, work and life conspired against me to the point that I couldn’t run until laaaaate at night. At around 10:30 p.m., with Julie and Anabel asleep, I crept out of the house for a 7-mile run at the gym. Part of it is because Wednesday is the day Julie and I do longer training runs in our program (we run Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays … usually with one other non-running workout on one of the other three days). I’ve run enough to know that if I skip a training run, it’s not the end of the world. But I also know that once you skip one, or push around your schedule, it’s easier to get into bad habits and skip more.
*I like to time my indoor runs as best I can to sports I want to watch on TV. That’s been a little more difficult with Anabel since the hours during which we can go to the gym and bring her to the child care center end in the evening on weeknights and earlier on weekends, but on those nights when one of the local teams has a game starting at 6 p.m., I find that running during that hour makes the workout fly by. Also, if a game isn’t on, I have been known to watch Wheel of Fortune at 6:30 when I run. If you hear a guy at Life Time shouting out strange phrases, it’s probably me.
With any luck, though, we’re nearing the end of treadmill season. Next week’s forecast has some promising days (welcome back 60s, we missed you), and once the calendar turns to April the news is generally more encouraging. That said, I won’t be heartbroken if there are days or nights along the way when I have to get in a run at the gym. Running inside is better than not running at all, and it’s something we shouldn’t turn our noses up at or take for granted.