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Gotta Run: Pros and cons of roads, trails and treadmills

First, I need to revisit last week’s topic just briefly. I left out how to keep your toes warm in cold weather. Get a pair of wool running socks. Nothing does the job better. With the cold mornings of this past week, not only did I experience the need to get the wool socks out, but the same question came up several times in talking with others. And no, the socks are not itchy or scratchy. Just make sure that you get the ones made for running.

We have two more races coming up next weekend. The first is the St. Matthew’s 5K Run/Walk on Oct. 31 at St. Matthew’s Church on Bringle Ferry Road. All participants get a dri-fit long sleeve shirt and chances to win awards in seven age groups for both male and female. The 5K is at 9 a.m. and a fun run follows at 10 a.m. A costume contest will follow both races, and the adult winner will get a Fit Bit Flex. The kids’ winner will get a gift card from Sweet Frog. All proceeds from the race go to lifelong St. Matthew’s member Judy Gainey, who has been battling breast cancer and ovarian cancer. Call Robert Sweatt for more information at 704-642-8144.

Sunday’s event is the Dewey Dash Color Run 5K and the Little Dewey Fun Run at Patterson Farm Market, 10390 Caldwell Road, Mount Ulla. The races are a partnership between Patterson Farm Market and the Rowan-Salisbury School System. These races are not competitive, though the top overall finishers will be recognized. The fun run is at 4 p.m. and the 5K is at 4:30 p.m. There will be plenty of color flying around. Call Michelle Patterson at 704-636-4005.

Both of these races have online registration at www.sportoften.com and a printable brochure with more information is available at www.salisburyrowanrunners.org

Our subject today has to do with the differences, both good and bad, of running on the treadmill, trails and what might be a surprising fact about roads. I’ve had plenty of experience on all three and will share what I have learned.

Treadmills are not my favorite for running or walking, but I will admit that they do have a place for many runners. Treadmills can be used for effective speed or interval training. Intervals refer to running fast for a designated period of time, then slowing down for another period of time, before repeating over and over based on the specified distance. Good treadmills are easily adjusted for speed and measure distance accurately. Treadmills can also be adjusted for elevation and good hill workouts can be the result. Better treadmills also allow a choice of programs that can match your desired intensity and distance for the workout. Most top-of-the-line treadmills also measure heart rate, though the accuracy is sometimes suspect. Treadmills have slightly cushioned belts which I also count as a plus.

Cons for treadmills include the fact that you never turn a corner, you don’t have to dodge bad places in the road and weather doesn’t affect performance. For someone who wants to compete in road races, they are not realistic for adequate training. Running on a treadmill does require some level of concentration, most often to make sure that you are running near the center of the belt and not drifting to the side or back.

My takeaway is this. Use a treadmill to avoid inclement weather if you need to do that. Also, if you decide that it is time to push the pace, it is most easily done on a treadmill. Find out just how fast that you can run for a certain distance under almost perfect conditions.

Trail running has several positives as well. Most trails are not highly populated and usually don’t get close to vehicular traffic. Well-kept trails allow for an opportunity to run mindlessly in nature, enjoying the great outdoors without much distraction. Natural trails often require a certain amount of balance and a keen eye for roots or rocks. Some runners love pushing themselves on the natural trails.

Those roots and rocks can also make for a tough run, especially if they contribute to an injury. I sprained an ankle badly 20 years ago and have had poor balance on that side ever since. Sometimes trails can be more slippery in wet weather, though this can be helped by getting special trail shoes. Usually runners can’t run as quickly on trails, but the resulting improvements in balance and core strength offset that. I usually tell my clients that several runs a week need to be about something other than time. We refer to those as fun runs. Consider doing a trail run on one of these days.

The best natural trails in the county are at Salisbury Community Park. Other public trail options are at Dan Nicholas Park and the East Rowan YMCA.

While most of us usually run on asphalt or concrete or a mixture of both, one thing that surprises many new runners is that asphalt is better for you than running on concrete. Concrete gives very little, making it harder than asphalt. Running, walking or even standing on concrete is harder than any of these done on asphalt.

None of these basic choices for your running surface is perfect, but variation in surfaces is something that will benefit every runner or walker. Try them all.

I will see you back here again next week when we will talk about the accuracy of measured courses. In the meantime, take advantage of the great weather and hit the roads. I hope to see you out there!

David Freeze is a nationally certified running coach and president of the Salisbury Rowan Runners. Contact him at david.freeze@ctc.net. Learn more at Learn more at www.Ulearn2run.com

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