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Benefits of Indoor Running Tracks

Running is a popular activity that can be done almost anywhere. Indoor tracks are a great place to practice running, but they aren't very popular, despite having a number of benefits over other places to run.
FitnessVigil Staff
Why Running?
Running or jogging is a popular activity around the world. As a form of daily exercise, it's easy, can be done almost anywhere, and is usually free or very inexpensive. Additionally, running works out all the body's major muscle groups and burns far more calories than walking. Running is also rewarding, because people at all levels can notice improvement in a short time, and there is virtually no upper limit to getting better at running. Even veteran runners can still stretch themselves to run faster and further, which keeps the sport interesting. Another great thing about running is that it can be non-competitive. When you run, you are racing only against yourself, and most racing communities have a friendly, inclusive atmosphere that encourages runners to beat their own best times, not each other.
Where to Run
All runners have a favorite place to train, whether it's on a treadmill, around town on city streets, in a local park, or on trails in a country setting. Each of these has its own benefits and drawbacks, and every runner has to decide for himself or herself which running venue is right. Long distance runners may choose to run through cities or on long trails, so they can run many miles without having to go back over the same course many times. For busy professionals, treadmills are often the fastest, easiest option. One place to practice running, that is often overlooked, is the indoor track.
Where to Find an Indoor Track
Indoor tracks are not very popular, and as a result, they are not very common. They take up a lot of space inside gyms and recreation centers, so their unpopularity makes them low on the building priority list for these places. High quality, professional indoor tracks can be found in Olympic training centers, but these are few and far between. However, in most medium and large cities, there is at least one indoor track hiding in a YMCA, public recreation center, or private gym. Typically, these tracks are shorter than regulation outdoor running tracks, because long tracks are difficult to accommodate inside a building. One common format for an indoor track is on a raised platform above a basketball court or multi-use gymnasium. They are often one tenth of a mile in length, shorter than the usual one quarter of a mile outdoor tracks.
Indoor Tracks to Avoid
When searching for an indoor track to run on, remember that not all indoor tracks are created equal. Occasionally, recreation centers will mark out a path on the floor around an exercise room and call it an indoor track. Sometimes, such a path will even meander through the room itself, weaving in and out of machines, so the would-be runner has to dodge weightlifters and pass the same person on the rowing machine over and over again. These paths should not be called indoor tracks, and runners should be wary of centers that claim to have an indoor track and have only a marked-off trail across the floor.
Are Indoor Running Tracks Right for You?
Once you have located a good indoor track, give it a try. There are many factors that make them an ideal choice for casual runners. Unlike outdoor tracks and trails, these can be used no matter what the weather is like. This allows you to run on more days and cuts down on the number of different running outfits you need. Unlike treadmills, indoor tracks are not hard on the hips and knees, allowing you to run longer and faster without risking injury. Also, most treadmills force you to run at a constant speed, until you change the speed manually or until the program changes it for you. This can make running awkward, and makes it nearly impossible to do speed work. On an indoor track, you control your own speed and can practice distance or speed any time.
For people who like to go to the gym, people who don't like crowded city streets, those who want to run on extreme cold or hot days without using a treadmill, or just runners who want to try something different and unusual, indoor running tracks are a good choice. And if more people start to using them, perhaps they will slowly become available in more places. At any rate, it can't hurt to give it a try!