It’s simple, natural and looks easy to do, but as a beginner runner you’ll quickly discover that the ground you pound makes a big difference. As each type of terrain comes with its own benefits and challenges, why not try them all, and find out which you like best?
Why we love it:
“It’s great for body, mind and soul,” says Olympian athlete and keen runner Toby Garbett. Jogging through a meadow or forest allows your lungs to get a shot of clean air, and your legs become super-strong from having to adjust to the naturally variable gradient of the trail. But perhaps the best part is that it lifts your mood as well as your bum! “Exercising in a green environment has been found to lead positive mood,” says Prof. Andy Lane, sports psychologist at the University of Wolverhampton. Compared to the gym, running outside is never dull – animals and trees keep your mind distracted from aches and pains and there's no danger of showcasing your sweaty, scarlet-face to anyone you know.
Trail running is much more demanding than running on a smooth flat surface, so don’t worry too much about pace. You’ll need grippy trail running shoes and to focus on avoiding stumbling – but this challenge can also be a good distraction, notes Toby Garbett.
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Why we love it:
The convenience. You can leave home and start your run without delay and for free – perhaps with a neighbour to keep you company. Roads are a smoother, easier run than trails, but also have more natural variation than a flat treadmill, so this is an ideal balance. Most races are run on roads, so road running is also useful for training.
“You'll want some well-fitted and cushioned running shoes for running on a hard surface,” says Olympian runner and coach Andy Baddeley. You can run not only in the daylight but also in the cool, fresh dark, which is impossible in the gym and dangerous on an isolated trail. But whatever time of day you run on the road, make sure you’re safe.
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Why we love it:
You can watch TV while you run, enough said! As well as catching up on the latest X Factor episode, you can monitor how fast you’re moving on the treadmill display and adjust the speed and incline, giving you more control. In the gym, it’s simple to combine a run with weights training, a row or a swim – making this a winner if you have a larger fitness goal in mind. “Treadmill running is relatively easy on the joints, and a good way for a beginner to ease into this sport,” says Toby Garbett. “There’s no need to worry about hot or rainy weather, and gyms are relatively safe environments.” And, notes Prof. Lane, it’s easier to run with a friend on a treadmill because you can each adjust your speed and still run side by side.
“Raise the incline to three percent to simulate outdoor running,” says Andy Baddeley. ‘The moving belt of the treadmill does a little bit of the work for you, so adding an incline compensates to make it feel more natural.” Play with the speed and incline to keep runs interesting, he adds (or put a towel over the display if you find it easier not to watch the numbers). You can also use the mirror in front of you (if your gym has one) to check and correct your gait, advises personal trainer Jen Skym (jenerationfitness.co.uk
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