As part of our the-depth series United States of Running, we teamed up with Well + Good—to bring you a peek into how running superstars get motivated, maintain focus, and stay hydrated for every mile. Ready, set, go.
Being a member of a gym can have many perks: Access to steam rooms, inventive classes, and strength-training equipment you don’t have enough room for at home. But there’s one advantage the gym just can’t touch: The beauty of the great outdoors.
“I’m a trainer, so I’m in the gym all the time but there’s nothing I appreciate more than my outdoor runs,” says Los Angeles-based fit pro Danielle Pascente. “I know it sounds cheesy, but that first breath I take when I get outside just feels so motivating.”
“There’s nothing I appreciate more than my outdoor runs.”
Plus, taking your workout outdoors can make you look at your environment in a whole new way—and that extends to how you support that environment, too. Flow Water—the alkaline spring water that’s packaged in recyclable, paperboard-based TetraPak—is a sustainable option for oh-so-necessary mid-run hydration. You get to skip the controversial chemicals found in many plastic bottles, and score a rush of thirst-quenching electrolytes instead. Win, win.
Keep reading for five reasons why you should hit the pavement—not the treadmill.
Fresh air can positively impact your mental health
There’s loads of evidence that being in nature can lower your stress levels, but Pascente takes it one step further: “Going outside shifts my entire mood,” she notes. “Even if I’m having an off day, I find that the simple act of just getting outdoors is a quick fix.”
And there’s one group of people she recommends takes this advice to heed: Office dwellers. “If you’re sitting and working at a computer all day, you really should try to take your workouts outside if you can,” Pascente says. “It doesn’t have to be 100 percent effort all the time, but moving your body in any way with some fresh air involved is key.”
The environment makes you run harder—and that’s a good thing
“I love incorporating intervals into my runs, and they’re more fun to do outside,” says the pro trainer. Pascente recommends jogging to a nearby hill for a warm-up and doing 10 intervals by sprinting to the top and walking back down for a recovery break.
Alternately, Pascente swears by simply sprinting intervals block-by-block for up to 30 minutes—and letting your latest jam guide you. “Sprint the chorus parts of a song and jog the rest,” she advises. “Put together a playlist you really love, and I promise you’ll be cruising in no time!”
You’ll go that extra mile
Raise your hand if you’ve done this before: You hop on the treadmill determined to go five miles, but halfway through decide two is enough (brunch is calling). Yes, you can still cut your run short when you’re outside, but you’ll probably be less likely to do so.
“The treadmill can be super monotonous,” Pascente says, but the outdoors are more likely to engage you. “Time flies outside because there’s so much to watch all around you. I live in a busy city, so the things I see on runs make for some of the best stories.”
It’s great for private thought
Searching for inspiration or trying to come to a tough decision? The solution might be just outside waiting for you. “Sometimes I just turn off my music and listen to myself breathe,” Pascente says. “I’ve created some of my best ideas on runs. You can quiet all the clutter and noise and just focus on your internal thoughts.”
It’s never boring
The only entertainment you get while on the treadmill is via whatever happens to be playing on the TVs overhead. (Has anyone ever figured out how to actually change those channels?) When you take the gym out of the scenario, it opens up a whole other world of possibility.
“Before I was a runner, I couldn’t believe how much of my own city I had never seen,” she says. “Running has allowed me to see my city and all its beauty.”
In partnership with Well + Good
Photos: Danielle Pascente