A Break from Normal

by Kim on August 1, 2012

Last night, I did something weird.

I decided to “go for a run.”

No planned distance, no goal speed, no goal calories, no intervals, no watching the time. Just running, for as long as I wanted, as fast slow as I wanted. Forget the training plan-I needed a break from the “I shall now go complete 5 miles” mentality.

Although I like training for races, because it’s very motivating, and following a training plan, because I like structure and guidelines (gag, right?), I wanted to remember what it was like to “just run.”

just run

I also wanted to remember what it was like to just run outside. I’ve been doing most of my running indoors, either at the gym or (most often) on our treadmill in the basement. This arrangement became particularly awesome when Mother Nature decided to launch a 3-month 90+ degree Brain-Melting Heatathon. But now I’m accustomed to running in heavily air-conditioned spaces, often with a fan blowing directly in my face (the gym treadmills are bomb like that), on a machine that holds my water bottle and iPod for me the whole time.

Oh, and I get to watch TV.


Crappy pic of my view on the basement treadmill (complete with an inspiration board to taunt me throughout my runs). Those glowing orbs will eventually blind me…

Caitlin over at Healthy Tipping Point just wrote a great article about why training for a race entirely indoors can be bad. She points out these 5 reasons training on treadmills is less than ideal:

  • Unless you constantly adjust the incline, running on a treadmill fails to properly simulate the ups and downs of natural terrain.  Running on a flat surface is much easier!

  • The treadmill propels you forward very slightly.  This is why most of us feel that treadmill running is easier.

  • The treadmill inherently paces you.  This means that you may have trouble self-pacing during a race and end up coming out too fast (or too slow).

  • The treadmill has much more ‘give’ than the sidewalk; this means your body isn’t as prepare for the pounding of the sidewalk or the road.  I find that running on a treadmill results in less soreness in my legs, knees, and hips.  If you are 100% treadmill-based and want to switch to outdoor running, running experts will recommend you transition slowly over several weeks (not cold turkey) so you don’t hurt your muscles, bones, or joints.

  • You may get used to running indoors and find outdoor running to be a bit disheartening due to issues above.  This is not something you want to experience for the first time on race day!

It’s funny because I used to think treadmill running was easier, but now it’s the complete opposite. Sure, it sucks to go up hills, but you also get to go DOWN hills! Plus, there’s so much more to look at (who doesn’t have Running ADD?) and you have to be more mindful of where you’re going so you don’t trip over tiny dogs and smash into cars parked across the sidewalk (Nintendo Paperboy anyone?).

There’s also the motivational factor of peer pressure. Someone’s inevitably going to run up behind you and pass you, or you might be able to pass someone else. This peer pressure phenomenon sort of exists with gym treadmill running…


…but checking your neighbor’s speed out of the corner of your eye is not quite the same as having someone actually pass you. (Oh the horror!)

When I started training for my first marathon, it was January and I pretty much had to run inside (I’m a huge pansy about winter weather in general, so running outside anytime between November and March is basically out of the question for me). I remember the first time I tried transitioning to outdoor running…long story short, it ended very soon after it started, and with some tears.

What was I supposed to do if I had to go to the bathroom or my water bottle needed refilling? What if I got too tired and ended up stuck 5 miles away from home? What if my iPod died? What if it rained? These were all issues I wasn’t used to considering.

Here’s another thing that never happens with treadmill running: while waiting for you to go through a crosswalk, an older dude on a motorcycle loses his balance and falls over in the middle of the road, getting pinned under the motorcycle, ALL BECAUSE OF YOU. (This happened to me once. Luckily, a random Good Samaritan showed up to help lift the billion-pound bike off the poor guy.)

It took awhile for me to get really comfortable outside, but once I got my groove, I found myself turning my nose up at the treadmill (something I’d thought would never happen). I learned how to ration my water supply and plan my runs around water fountains and public restrooms (one time I had to go through the mall, pouring sweat and probably looking amazing). I paid attention to the weather before my runs and ignored it during my runs. I avoided dudes on motorcycles.

I could definitely tell that I was out of outdoor-running practice last night. I didn’t go that far and I probably wasn’t very fast. But I got a nice refresher on what it feels like to “just run.”

Of course, when I got home, I had to find out how far I’d gone, out of curiosity. (I couldn’t completely let go of my super-rigid training plan roots.)

My guess was 4 miles.

According to mapmyrun.com, it was actually…


Dang, so close! Of course, this is when tracking your distance comes in handy…if I would have KNOWN I was that close, I would definitely have gone a little farther to hit an even 4. (Sometimes on the treadmill, I won’t stop until I hit an even number mileage AND calorie count…but that’s a bit obsessive.)

Maybe I’m not meant to be a “just run” runner. But it was a nice reminder that running doesn’t always have to be bootcamp-strict…it can even be (gasp) fun!

Do you ever “just run”? (or “just elliptical” maybe?)

If you’re a runner, do you prefer treadmills or outdoor running?

What’s your favorite outdoor activity?

Of possible interest:

Thinking about a juice cleanse? Get the facts first.Greatist


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