Get off that treadmill and feel the cold rain in your face

Tue, Oct 2, 2012, 01:00

RUN CLINIC: The artificial ambience of the treadmill and the gym cannot compete with the joy of outdoor running in all weather, writes RUTH FIELD

Do I really have to go outside in this horrible rainy Irish weather to run? Why can’t I run on the treadmill in the gym instead?

I am afraid that running like a hamster on a wheel in a windowless gym under artificial lighting while listening to MTV and simultaneously watching four different television programmes goes completely against the Grit Doctor grain. So the short answer is, yes, you absolutely do need to get out in the rainy Irish weather in your running kit and “grit out” your thrice weekly jogs. It is essential training for your character as much as for your fitness and health. The worse the weather conditions, the bigger the payoff afterwards, which means, the grittier the run, the more incredible you will feel when you are finished. There is nothing like returning home from a run in the cold and rain and getting into a warm bath and then cosying up on the sofa with a mug of hot chocolate.

While I’m on the subject, this is another reason that running is essential during the colder months – because we all have a tendency to eat more at this time, in desperate need of some comfort and distraction from the misery our climates bring. This leads to the weight gain which we then spend the following months trying to remedy so we don’t give ourselves and others a heart attack when we step out onto a beach in a bikini. Running all year round is the solution. It will ensure you are looking your best throughout the year and will keep those happy hormones buzzing about you so that you breeze through the really tough months.

If you thought running in the summer heat was hard, running in the autumn and winter months is easy by comparison. And I mean really easy. Make sure you are dressed appropriately and go for it: if it is really cold, layer up – with gloves and hat too if it is bitterly cold. Do bear in mind that you will warm up considerably during the run, so there is no need to overdo it. It can be wonderfully bracing being cold as you start out, and will ensure you get cracking quickly to warm up.

You will need to wear something waterproof, but there is no need to splash out on all sorts of new stuff either. I just wear my anorak with the hood up over my usual running togs, take a deep breath and go. The looks of admiration you will receive from others will spur you on through those first hellish 10 minutes when your body is acclimatising and thereafter the prospect of being freezing cold and soaking wet and three miles from home will ensure you don’t give up half way through.

They don’t call it the “dreadmill” for nothing. I was recently using one in my local gym because of a knee problem and realised once more exactly why it is called the dreadmill: the dread of falling off the conveyor belt for starters and because there is nothing about the experience that feels positive. Running on the spot reminds me of those horrible nightmares or silly cartoons where escape from a baddie is impossible, and the artificial air and lighting do little for the soul, let alone all the stony-faced people “working out”. Plus, all that time you waste getting to the gym and back home again, time which could be better spent running for longer outdoors.

Running outdoors is a celebration. A celebration of your surroundings and the environment, of your body and soul. Deep breathing the cold crisp air, letting it fill your lungs and feeling the ground beneath your feet and the sky above makes you feel truly alive, and never more so than when it is cold and raining. That being said, if you have to, it is obviously way better to punch out 30 minutes on the dreadmill (be sure to set it at an incline of at least 1 otherwise it is akin to running downhill) than to sit on the sofa eating toffees, and it is always the position that some exercise – whatever form it takes – is better than no exercise at all. Running on the treadmill is for wimps. Go once in the pouring rain and you will never look back.

The Grit Doctor says: It’s raining now so don anorak and trainers and smile through gritted teeth.

Ruth Field is the author of Run Fat Bitch Run. Tweet your running query to Ruth at: @gritdoctor

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