Winter Running – Inside versus Outside (Part 2)

In honour of the USports and NCAA Champs, I thought it was a good time to talk about winter training again. I mean, let’s face it, it might be March, we have already seen some spring-like temperatures, but Mother Nature still likely has some winter in store for us.

A few weeks back I wrote about outdoor winter running; naturally, this post is about the opposite, training indoors.

Indoor Running Options:
1) The Indoor Track: While the standard used to be 200m tracks more and more tracks upwards of 400m are cropping up in the indoor world. From the dome at Monarch Park in Toronto to the permanent 400m indoor track at Louis Riel in Ottawa, the options for running an indoor track for the everyday runner are increasing. Indoor tracks are typically 3 to 5mm of rubber on top of concrete with tight turns (i.e. leg crushing apparatus). In addition, you often only get to run in one direction on these indoor tracks, which, generally speaking, make it harder on your left leg. However, if you have a need for speed and some interval work, a blend of some indoor track work is probably going to be a part of your training regiment.1)

The Treadmill: Remember how I said positivity in my outdoor post, well I’m sticking with it and not calling it the ‘dreadmill.’ If you think positively about what you’re doing odds are you’re going to have a better experience doing it. I think the treadmill is probably the most likely mode of indoor training that people have access too, from gyms in their condo buildings, friend’s buildings, gyms, therapy places, etc. there is a lot of access to treadmills. However, not all treadmills were created equally.
i) The Woodway: The Woodway (for the long run) is the gold-standard in the treadmill world. It has the most natural feeling running surface, it feels kind of ‘cushy,’ which makes it most forgiving to our bodies, and can get up to decent speeds if you need to do a workout on it.
ii) The Alter-G: The Alter-G is a treadmill that supports your weight, allowing you to run at less than your body weight. Not only is great for coming back from injury, but also for injury prevention and heat training. With respect to injury prevention, it allows you to run more but with less weight; in Jay Dicharry’s Running Rewired, it says that the forces generated in your body are 2.5 to 3 times your body weight; so you can pack in some extra miles at less weight. As for heat training, that race you have in April, that snow outside your door… When Sarah Lesko of Oiselle was coming back from injury I described running on the Alter-G as “Be[ing] prepared to feel like you’re participating in Gwenyth Paltrow’s vagina steaming.” Let’s just say one of the unintended consequences of running on the alter-g is learning to deal with the heat.
iii) Conventional Treadmills: Don’t get me wrong, if this is your only option it’s not a bad one, I just wanted to point out that there are other options. I do recommend extra activation before you run to prepare those legs for the pounding on the treadmill. I definitely recommend post-workout leg-love. This does not necessarily have to be done immediately post-workout, but while you’re watching TV or looking at some stuff online do some gentle foam rolling and other exercises to provide some much-needed relief to your legs.

3) Water Running: Generally reserved for coming back from injury, this should actually be used in more general training plans. Like the Alter-G when done correctly water running is actually a great way to give your legs some reprieve from the pounding of running. There is some debate to proper running form, but from my anecdotal evidence (i.e. getting in the water to do it), a running A (with or without a belt) seems to be the most effective. Access to a pool, at any time of the year, can be a challenge; and really I do not recommend ice bathing and water running combined! Let’s reserve open water running for the warmer months!

4) Cross-Training: Initially I thought would break this down into its own post, but I have changed my mind. Let’s just say cross-training isn’t quite running but it has its merits. Elliptical, spin classes, your own bike and Zwifting, plus all those classes from yoga to pilates you can take, and intramural sports, like those over at Toronto Sport & Social club. Cross-training is a great way to give your legs some rest, build some aerobic capacity, and try something new!

5) Strength Training: I believe that strength training is a mandatory part of any running training
regimen (but we’ll leave that for another post!). Winter is a great time to swap a run for a strength training workout; it will get you out of the cold and into the warm. Plus, you will build resilience in those muscles that you use out on the roads. I’m definitely a standard deviation or two away from the norm of runners because I absolutely love and crave the gym work; from traditional lifting, medicine ball work, kettlebells, circuits, I try to incorporate something in every day.

Inside. Outside. It really doesn’t matter. What matters is that you’re having fun. That you’re doing what you love and respecting your body. And most importantly that you respect others and the decisions they make with where they train.