Where to run: choosing your terrain

When you take those first warm-up steps at the beginning of a workout, do you always head in the same direction?  Are you usually pounding the same stretch of pavement (or thumping away on the same lucky treadmill)?

There’s definitely something nice about running your go-to route where you know which streets will loop you back towards home just in time for the cool-down walk.  But there’s also something to be gained by switching up your terrain from time to time, either by hanging a left instead of a right at the end of the driveway or by trying a different locale altogether.

Your built-in workout journal lets you record what terrain you were running on for each workout.  Why not have some fun and see if you can cycle through all four options over a few weeks?

The road course is certainly a popular choice.  If you’re used to running on roads and sidewalks, it’s pretty easy to change things up just by choosing a different route for the day.  Especially if you usually run on a track or a treadmill, definitely consider adding some variety with a jog around the neighborhood.  This is especially important if you’re planning to participate in a race at some point.  You don’t want to be caught off guard on race day because you haven’t spent time in a “real world” running scenario.

A trail run can give you some variety and a refreshing dose of nature at the same time.  Depending on what’s around, you can likely find everything from rugged hiking trails to nicely paved paths that are great fun for running.  Just remember that running off road requires great care and attention to detail, so if your fitness isn’t quite where you’d like it to be, staying on the pavement is probably the way to go.  You can get away with heavy feet on smooth ground, but roots and rocks aren’t nearly as forgiving.

A treadmill workout is a great way to keep an eye on your numbers and make sure you are hitting the pace that you want.  Unless you’re wearing roller skates, there’s no cheating on a treadmill.  Especially if the weather is trying to keep you inside, throwing a treadmill workout into the mix from time to time can teach you a lot about your pace and fitness level.

A track, if you have access to one, can be more fun than you think.  It’ll give you a little bit of that Olympic-athlete feel and also let you really focus on running — no traffic, no intersections, no uneven footing.  Lots of gyms have indoor tracks, so if you’re typically an outdoor runner who has been forced inside for some reason, consider taking some laps on the track instead of using a machine.  Just keep in mind that for those of you using the app’s GPS features, workout data may not be accurate when training on a track.  (Basically, the technology has a hard time understanding that you are running in circles and may not give you credit for all the distance you cover.)  Fortunately, the track itself is accurately measured, which can help you get a feel for pace and distance based on the length of each lap.

Of course there is no reason you can’t complete your entire program on a single type of terrain.  Tweaking your route and running surface here and there is just another way to keep things interesting.  How about you?  Any serious preference about where you run?

One response to “Where to run: choosing your terrain

  1. Pingback: All by yourself? Tips and Tricks… | RunSonjaRun

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