Thedebate between exercising outdoors or indoors is open and valid both in these cold winter days and in summer, when the air is thick and unbreathable due to heat and mugginess.
Beyond everyone’s personal beliefs, I would like us to analyze the most important pros and cons of training indoors or outdoors. So let’s leave the proclamations of intransigent athletes for a moment because, yes, I assure you that you can train even without being in the middle of the trees and with the air lashing your face. Just not the same thing, but it can be very useful.
As you may have realized, if we look at the discussion with neutrality, both solutions should be considered, and each has its usefulness. It just depends on what you need to do, how you need to do it, and – not least – how you want to do it.
Let’s start with indoor training, a temptation of many, much abused because “running on the treadmill is not real running.” There are indeed real benefits to working out at home or in the gym – and I’m talking about either running or cycling.
The pros of indoor training
There are some positive expectations that outdoor running cannot give you such as, just to name a few, perfectly controlled pace or constant temperature. These aspects allow you to focus only on running without having distractions from environmental factors or having to worry about looking at your sportwatch too often to make sure your pace is correct – it is the treadmill that makes you maintain it.
In parallel, some particular workouts such as uphill intervals come much easier to you if you’re on a treadmill: you press a button and you’re creating the conditions you need to do the workout at its best.
Let’s remember – it is no coincidence that all professional athletes also train indoors.
There is also one aspect that should not be overlooked: comfort. In fact, everything is simple: you open the door, get on the treadmill, work out, get off, and get in the shower. It’s a fast, quick, painless and efficient use of time. You can do this at any time, without worrying about traffic, lighted or dark streets, safety – you can listen to loud music or watch TV because there are no traffic-related risks anyway. You are at home and, from there, you don’t move. Even if you want to stop training early.
The cons of indoor training
Because you are at home, training is no longer a time when you totally disconnect from the everyday, and this, no doubt, is a cons.
Also, the movement you make on the treadmill is not exactly the movement of running – because it is the road running underneath you, rather than the other way around. Believe me, it is an important issue but it is also secondary at the same time. After all, you never run exclusively on the treadmill.
Another major downside to indoor training is that to do it well you must be able to have an environment with controlled air and temperature. Running on the treadmill in 21°C is challenging; it would be better to do it between 15 and 19°C and, in any case, always with adequate air exchange.
The boredom issue that many people talk about, I assure you, is secondary. You can listen to music, a wonderful podcast or watch a TV show. From my personal experience, I can assure you that with the right music in your ears, an hour’s workout goes by very quickly and can even give you a great charge. In other cases it can also be very good mental training.
The last (perhaps the most) “important” cons that comes to mind is the lack of contact with nature, with your eyes being filled with beautiful things, with fresh air invading your lungs.
Outdoor training also has both positive and negative things, and in some ways they are reversed from indoor activity. Don’t think there are only pros in this section! But, for the sake of parity, let’s start with these.
The pros of outdoor training
The outdoors, the break from our daily routine, feet tapping on the ground, ice freezing your eyebrows, the beauty of being outside. In short, all the things that made us fall in love with running: I don’t think we need to go deep on them, do we?!
In terms of training, running in variable conditions is definitely more challenging and – most important – allows us to adapt to the most diverse situations we might find in a race. Rain, wind, snow, all those nice things (and I’m serious when I say that!) that may seem like obstacles but, in truth, are not so much.
The cons of outdoor training
In some ways, some positives of outdoor training are also negatives. In fact, environmental conditions are not always conducive to running – you decide whether it’s the heat, the cold, the hail, or the mosquitos invasions. The fact is that it is not always so pleasant. And those who deny it are lying. ;)
In addition, there is the safety aspect: there are cars on the streets, the roads are not always in great condition, and last but not least, you never know who or what you may encounter while running.
Warning: sometimes being tough and taking risks is not a good idea at all!
Coupled with this, sometimes put outdoor training in your daily routine is more complicated than indoor activities. And 15 minutes can always be useful.
As you can see, there are positive aspects to either activity. Personally, I find it wrong to exclude indoor training ‘a priori’ or miss the opportunity to sweat outdoors. It all depends very much on the situations and needs of the individual moment.
Above all, let us remember that, in the end, what matters is to sweat. No?!