Training Inside vs. Outside
When participating in an event, you must take into consideration all aspects of your training regimen. Along with proper nutrition and a steady exercise plan, you must consider WHERE you train, or in this case run. When choosing the correct venue for your training purposes, you must ask yourself the most important question, “Where is my event?”
Once this question is answered, your choice should be fairly obvious. As most running and multisport functions take place outside, so should your training. Training outside has numerous advantages that cannot be reproduced within the comfort of your own home or at the gym, regardless of what equipment is available to you.
Inside or Outside:
Why train outside? Weather permitting, training outside for ANY event allows subtle, but important, muscle recruitment you do not get when you train indoors. Running outside will require an increase in recruitment of the hamstring musculature because it is a fixed floor. With a fixed floor, you must activate more musculature to propel you along your chosen path. This differs from a treadmill which has a moving floor. This moving floor, believe it or not, will assist you with your running by pulling your leg through the stance phase. Your hamstrings must still contract and work eccentrically (lengthening while decelerating the knee to prevent hyperextension) but do not require the amount of concentric contraction (shortening to flex or bend the knee) as they would if you were running outside.
The hamstrings are not the only muscles that are recruited more with outdoor training. Small muscle groups within your hip, buttock, knee, ankle, and core must be used to maintain your balance as you encounter small angulations within your environment. The hips, buttock, and core musculature recruitment are magnified if an incline or decline is encountered, such as a hill. Ascending and descending hills while running will not only activate the hamstrings, gluteus, and core more, but will also add an interval to your training, which is vital to your success as a runner. (Yes, treadmills have an incline, but we have already been through this about treadmills.)
Finally, training outside allows you to train IN THE ELEMENTS. If your event could happen in the heat, rain, or sleet, you should train in the heat, rain, or sleet, but BE SMART ABOUT IT. Do not weaken your immune system for the sake of getting your run in. (This is where I eat my words regarding the treadmill).
Where should I train? The answer is simple, anywhere. Change the location, make it fun, stay close or go far away, the choice is yours. The key here is to break the monotony of running in the same place for an hour on your treadmill watching re-runs of early 90s sitcoms. Break the monotony of running past the same street signs and businesses, the same bushes on the running trail, or the same fence posts surrounding the track. Remember that variety is the spice of life.
When do I train? Make it convenient to you but if at all possible, train around the same time as your event. This is difficult for those training around their everyday lives and work. Early in the morning allows for you to get it out of the way and it is a little cooler than if you were to go around lunch time. Lunch time is sometimes more convenient given the break in the middle of the day, but is also the warmest time of the day and most people actually eat during their lunch break. Working out after work is the final option but most find this the busiest time of day with kids and other prior engagements.