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Wednesday 23rd May 2018

Which is better? Gym or outdoors?

10th May 2010

Is the gym or the outdoors best for running? Richard Askwith, author of 'Feet in the Clouds: a Tale of Fell-running and Obsession' argues the case for the outdoors while Rebecca Armstrong, deputy features editor of The Independent, prefers the gym.


Robert Askwith: I’ve been running for 30 years and I believe exercise is one of life’s great free gifts.

For the past two decades, I've taken my exercise in rolling Northamptonshire fields, enjoying sights, sounds and smells so rich and various that it is impossible not to enjoy the experience.

The outdoors offers the beauty of the landscape and the wildlife in changing seasons combined with a sense of independence and freedom.

But what raises my blood pressure are those who insist on presenting exercise as a consumer product.

I've nothing against gyms but gym training is a means to an end, not an end in itself.

I’m 50 and still run because I enjoy it but the consensus among friends and colleagues is that my habits, not those of the gym bunnies, are eccentric.

Rebecca Armstrong: By nature, I'm a coach potato, not a gym bunny. For me, exercise can have its pleasurable moments but it will always be a chore, a responsibility to my health, both physical and mental, as well as to my dress size.

But I like to be somewhere that's cool in summer and warm in winter with all the conveniences. At my gym, I can surf the internet, read a paper and peruse the sportswear for sale by the lifts. There's a sauna, a steam room, a Jacuzzi and even a spa.

Yes, it’s expensive, but it’s convenient.

But I can swim, do yoga, indoor climbing or Body Pump and in the gym proper I found even running can be fun…on a treadmill with built-in air-con.

And while outdoor exercisers might look down on gym rats like me, I think that working out in the great outdoors is not only overrated, but downright perilous.


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David Cripps

Wednesday 26th May 2010 @ 15:38

Outside of the NHS my sport is athletics, specifically middle distance, endurance and cross country. Now days I coach and sometimes jog with my dog while my training group run around a forest, but in the past I competed. From a personal viewpoint I'm with the outdoor brigade. While convenience consumers may prefer the gym experience they do miss so much. Just two aspects are change of terrain and emotionally induced change of pace. The first has an added physiological benefit, the latter cannot be replicated in the gym where any change is a conscious decision. Can any gym bunny remember a great training session on a treadmill? The clue is in the name.

Run outside and you will be fitter and stronger than if you work only in the gym. My ex-county and national level athletic, now gym-bunny elder son also runs outdoors so I have observed this.

I can vividly remember some training sessions from my competition era that started out as 'easy' but became sparklingly fast because I was mentally planning my next race. You can see it too in many 100m sprinters when they are waiting to climb into their starting blocks. This mental-physical feedback cannot be properly replicated in the gym.

Another problem with gyms is that people stop setting goals that improve their performance and this inhibits the benefit they gain by exercising.

And I haven't even started on the pleasure aspect.

Of course I'm biased - I hate gyms.

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Article Information

Title: Which is better? Gym or outdoors?
Author: Mark Nicholls
Article Id: 14831
Date Added: 10th May 2010


The Independent

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