Chasing 42

Life, the Universe, & Running

Archive for the tag “treadmill”

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!

snow

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!

Critters make the cold bearable!

Post-Workout Snuggles: Critters make the cold bearable!

Remembering the Run

Do you remember the first run you ever went on? Do you remember what prompted you to decide to start running in the first place? Perhaps  you didn’t enjoy it initially but after one amazing run, you were hooked.  Perhaps the weather was beautiful, or you saw a beautiful sunrise or sunset. Were you all by yourself, did someone drag you out the door, or did you head out with a group of friends?

Now, when the euphoria wore off, why did you decide you go back out for a second run? We’ve all tried plenty of things once to be adventurous, and then decided they weren’t for us, but this was different. I raise these questions because I think it’s really easy to forget the answers after you’ve been running for a while. I’ve only been at it a few years, and I still need to remind myself what got me hooked in the first place, so I’m sure others that have been at it much longer than me are doing the same thing.

During the winter months, the theme of so many running-related stories is about survival. We are thinking about how to survive the snow, the cold, the ice, the treadmill, illness, darkness, and boredom. In the process of going on the defensive during the winter months, it seems pretty easy to treat running as something to get through and move on, but you miss out on whats around you when you are preoccupied with getting past it!

Winter-Running-670x425

I can admit that I have been guilty of heading out on a run with a “must get it done” attitude, and I know I haven’t enjoyed those runs as much. I also know that I’m far from being a fan of the winter months, especially in the midwest, and I don’t enjoy the extra work involved in layering up just to get out the door. However, I want to always remember what an amazing gift it is that I have the chance to lace up and head out in the first place.

no-treadmill

A week from now, I’m going to be relaxing on a sunny beach in Trinidad (or more likely, hiking through a rainforest), and I got all of my travel vaccinations last week. This is my first experience with international travel, so I didn’t exactly know what to expect. After an hour and a half in the travel clinic, it was hard not to be worried about everything from dengue fever to diarrhea, but I remained positive. In addition to the yellow fever, typhoid, hepatitis A, and flu shots, I also received a pneumoccocal vaccination. For most folks, this isn’t a bad shot, but in 1% of patients, in can result in high fever, along with aches, pains, and chills. I won the vaccination lottery 🙂

I spent most of this past week on the couch with a fever anywhere between 100 and 103. I’m pretty sure that the most productive thing I did for three days was move from the couch to the bed. Now, I should mention that I’m really bad at being sick. I hate not being able to get things done and not having control over my time. Thus, that fact that I couldn’t run all week was really frustrating for me. I know I should have looked at it as an excellent recovery period for my legs and enjoy the rest, but I just couldn’t. The fact that I woke up three nights in a row lying in a pool of my own sweat after my fever broke didn’t help either!

Not my friend!

Not my friend!

When Saturday morning arrived, and I was feeling well enough to head out for a run, I was as happy as a kid in a candy store. I planned to take it easy and keep a somewhat slower pace so as not to overdo it, but I was just happy to be out there. I ran the first leg by myself, and felt this overwhelming excitement and sense of joy with everything around me. I felt my foot falls, listened to my breath, thought about my gate, and just took in the world around me. Then I met up with some friends for the next leg and it was wonderful to reconnect with everyone. Saturday mornings were already one of my favorite times of the week, but it was that much better this week. After having so little human contact for 4 days, it was great to be around people. I had some great conversations and formed some lovely memories to add to the mix. After we finished our loop, I headed back on the third leg of my run to complete my morning training.

When I got home, I realized that I felt that same new and exciting sense of joy that I felt when I fell in love with running the first time. The fire has been burning for quite a while now, but the spark was relit and renewed. It brought back all of the memories of my first run and of my journey. In the process, I was not only reminded of why I run, but that I never HAVE to run…I GET to run. I am always thankful for that.

journey

Running for Research

Do you ever wonder if mice are really secretly passionate runners and the wheel they run on, while being injected with various substances in the name of science, is an opportunity for them to contribute to science and enjoy it at the same time?

Yesterday, I participated in a running research study designed to assess the accuracy of a product line of comprehensive health monitors. They strapped two separate models on my arm, and I proceeded to walk & run on a treadmill, on an indoor track, and outside. It was relatively easy, and it’s always fun to learn about the specifics of the study, and what they are looking to gain from the research. The $30 I earned for doing it was a nice bonus as well.

This study was actually the second running-related research project I have been a part of while at Iowa State University. Last semester, I spent several weeks attempting to transition from a heel strike to a forefoot strike as a part of a study sponsored by Brooks Running. I went into a lab on campus several times a week, and ran on a treadmill, using a forefoot strike, while motion-capture sensors and cameras tracked my movement. It was fascinating to track the change in my running pattern, especially since I had always wanted to attempt to make this switch, having read about its benefits for trail-running. Ultimately, I was able to make the switch with a greater degree of effort, but never found it as comfortable. I have since attempted to reach a happy medium, and do include forefoot legs of my longer runs in order to work out different muscle groups. That study netted me another $30 too, by the way.

Needless to say, the academic in me loves being able to support other scholars as they pursue their research, and the fact that I get to do so while engaging in my second passion, while also getting paid, just makes for a match made in heaven. The input-driven individual that I am, I love the opportunity to learn more about my own running, as well as relevant research which may help me to improve my form and effectiveness as I train.

I may not have been injected with any experimental drugs while I was on the treadmill, but none-the-less, I love the opportunity to combine my thirst for knowledge with my thirst for distance!

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