I’ve been pondering this post over in my mind the last few days after hearing from people who prefer the great outdoors; I decided to examine my running environment, so to speak. Since I’ve started running, I’ve pretty much been practicing on a treadmill. Cold winter months combined with the need for the privacy in the employee gym, pretty much kept me chained to the treadmill. The employee gym is usually empty when I go except for one other person every now and then. If I hit the time just right, I can have the whole place to myself. The lure of not being embarrassed by a slow gait or short runs made it the ideal place to “practice” my running.
What I found, is that treadmill running and running on the street or track are so totally different. On the treadmill I found that I kept my body rigid in order to stay within the confines of the two metal bars. The other downside of the treadmill is that there was no “off in a distance.” I ran until I got tired and stopped to walk. This false sense of security made the “great outdoors” a scary thing reserved for 5K races and other marathons.
Joining Walk-to-Run a couple of weeks ago was the first time that I had dedicated longer runs outside doing something other than a race. I found the experience to be challenging, if not a little daunting. After that, I started to do at least one run outdoors at least once a week. The problem was that I still didn’t want to run on the parkway with the many other runners and watched by the drivers whizzing by at sixty miles per hour.
Last week, I found the perfect solution, a school track. It seems that one of the Jr. High outdoor tracks is a favorite for runners and walkers. The best thing is that no one seems to notice when I get tired and feel the need to pull up to a walk.
Even though my time has improved the last two times out, I’m still experiencing the problem of relaxing my body to run without running with the “treadmill gait” where I hold my body rigid despite the absence of the two bars. I’m also learning not to psych myself out, before I get started on the wide open space. So thank you to everyone who sang the praises of running outdoors instead of on a treadmill. All in all, I’m starting to enjoy my running experience outdoors despite the impending summer heat waves.