Often, when people first start running they head straight for the treadmill. Protected by the gym walls, far away from extreme temperatures and sheltered from darkness and bad weather, the treadmill appears to be the most ‘cozy’ option. Maybe we are not confident in our form, or perhaps we do not feel completely comfortable with our bodies or still do not feel brave enough to face the road and the looks of every person we encounter. The gym, with it’s microcosmic dimensions, protects us, accepts us and somehow justifies the fact that we are (or believe we are) clumsy. We put up with the ‘nearby runner’ who has chosen a synthetic shirt, which announced his arrival ten seconds before we even saw him. We tolerate the lady next to us who, just after using it, wipes down her treadmill with cleaning solution and surprises us with a smell so appalling it could be from a chemical poison center.
It is undeniable, however, that when you stay indoors you miss out on many things. When you stick your nose outside, after spending several months in the little world of a fitness center, it is shocking. In good ways and bad.
The treadmill helps us while we run because the belt glides beneath our feet and we are shielded from wind resistance. This is contrary to the road which does not make concessions, and forces us to push the pace on a tough and cold surface, and requires us to ask our body to exert more energy and place more stress on joints, knees, ankles and hips.
Nevertheless, with an array of endless and amazing nuances. It’s as if our senses suddenly wake up and become more receptive to the stimuli and events in the world that surrounds us.
The truth is that it’s absolutely worth experiencing. Just give it a chance and see what happens when you run ‘through the world.‘ A good strategy may be to start slowly, leaving the fitness center just once a week. If you are anxious, try wearing a pair of dark sunglasses, which you can hide behind, and a baseball cap. Go at dusk so your clumsiness is hidden from the public eye. Dress in black and go along a road without much traffic outside the city center. Also, casting your gaze upon the ground will make everything feel easier.
But all joking aside, when you venture out onto the road, you may have some trouble with the mileage calculations that your GPS gives you. It is not uncommon that the treadmills at the gym are not properly calibrated and give you speed statistics that are too slow or fast.
You will have to learn how to have a new relationship with your running, how to keep up with the pace and with the proprioceptive adaptation of balance while trying to listen to what your body is telling you and understand its needs.
It could also happen that you struggle to maintain the same mileage you were doing indoors. The incline, air resistance and different terrains can cause you to perceive that your are working harder and make you ‘hit the wall’ sooner than you would on a treadmill. Do not fear! Scale back your mileage on your first runs and then slowly settle yourself into your new routine.
Another thing that you will need to learn will be how to deal with changes in the weather. Rain, wind, cold, humidity or bad light can throw you for a loop, at least in the beginning and confound you on clothing choices. In this case too, try to be resourceful and make good decisions among the wide range of technical clothing offered on the market today. As my grandmother said, “clothes are like onions and will not go bad.”
Once you get over these first small hurtles, you will discover a new pleasure in running. You will discover that ‘out there’ is a world with scents, colors, sounds and encounters. You will discover magic and life with running shoes on your feet and shortness of breath.
Do not prevent yourself from having this experience; give yourself a great chance to get up and go get a new pleasure. Just overcome these small obstacles and take the first steps, outdoors!