The Benefits of Running Outdoors
The wacky weather continues as the most recent winter storm dumped copious amounts of snow on a wide stretch of the southwest and midwest. If you are like most people, this is the time of year where cabin fever really starts to kick in! Having just finished shoveling the driveway yet again, I can certainly say that I’m ready to get back to complaining about the heat of summer 🙂 More than the cold though, is the time we spend indoors. Even if you are an outdoor runner during the winter, you likely aren’t stepping outside nearly as much for other daily activities. When you do head outside, you are bundling up in layer upon layer of clothing, trying to put as much space between you and the cold and wind as possible. The reality is that we withdraw from mother nature in the winter months. We might as well find our own warm cave and head off to hibernate!
So, as we near the end of our hibernation, I’ve been thinking a lot more about the benefits of running outdoors. I certainly try to avoid the dreadmill as much as possible (my two-year streak is still alive!), but other than boredom, I don’t have any real reason for doing so. For many of my friends, the treadmill is an excellent way to maintain training without dealing with the elements. This is especially true when it’s icy outside, as one of my friends who recently fractured her tailbone can attest. However, there are some other important reasons to try to get outside during the winter months, safely of course. A recent NYT Times article hit the nail on the head for me, and reinforced my commitment to running outdoors whenever possible. The highlights include:
1. You stride differently outdoors- you are constantly adapting to the terrain, and you occasionally run downhill as well (which isn’t very easy on the treadmill)
2. Outdoor running expends more energy- you are working harder outside!
3. Higher self-esteem and lower levels of tension, depression, and fatigue- in addition to the activity itself, you are increasing your vitamin D intake by taking advantage of the sun when it is out!
4. You are more active overall
5. Higher oxygen intake- and it’s fresh air, instead of the smelly version due to the sweaty person next to you!
I’m heading to Little Rock, AR for the Little Rock Marathon this weekend, and I couldn’t be more excited to put on a pair of shorts and run outside. The temperature is only going to be in the 30’s at the start, but I don’t care! Thus, for at least 4 hours (fingers crossed) of running, I’ll be able to remind myself of the milder weather to come. I don’t know if the snow is done falling, or if we still have some freezing rain ahead of us (knock on wood that we don’t!), but I’m certainly going to continue to push myself to head outside for those miles, even when a warm blanket, a snuggly dog, and a good book are far more enticing!