Thoughts · Workouts

ENVIRONMENT: how training is affected by place

When I’m in England, I love going climbing at my local bouldering gym. It’s bright and clean, and easy to navigate, they have great tunes pumping through the speakers and it has enough problems that even for someone with as limited skills as me can tackle route after route for hours and not get bored. It’s not the biggest in the world, but it has 3 different sections with all types of wall you could want for bouldering and never feels crowded. When I was back home over summer, I would be there at least once a week, maybe twice, even though it took me 45 minutes to drive all the way there.

In Chile, I have gone climbing 3 times in the last 2 months. Not for want of accessibility, as there is a gym less than a mile from my flat, or from lack of time. No, what has put me off is that I have not yet found a gym which suits me half as well as the ones I’ve been to in England.

I’m not picky with my exercise normally – if I want to do something, I will do it even if my environment isn’t what I’m used to. But here, I just can’t get climbing in places which make me feel bored, not stimulated, and frankly uncomfortable and I’d rather not climb whatsoever.

The gyms here are small, but that’s not the problem. They are crowded, which is more of an issue, with route after route overlapping and criss-crossing in a visual mess which hurts the eyes, the brain and ultimately the body when you’re hanging in mid-air trying to figure out the next move. They aren’t labelled sufficiently, using a series of coloured tags attached to holds, not the colour of the holds themselves.

There is a lack of “easier” routes for novice climbers like myself. Their most basic challenges are at the top of my comfort zone meaning I have no way to warm up my brain and my arms and just have to dive straight into the deep end. And they aren’t changed either, from what I can tell. The routes stay the same, at least for a month or so.

What I’m trying to say is that even if you really want to do something the environment often has to be complementary to force you out the door in the first place.

To take another example, think of the weather. I know a lot of runners in the States have been remarking that the temperatures haven’t yet fallen, resulting in extra hot and muggy morning runs – which makes them less motivated to go out the next time because they know they will struggle further. For myself, the winter always brings less motivation for me to train as nights get darker, the days draw in, and the outside isn’t as welcoming an environment as it seemed in Spring and Summer.

My running can also be affected by the routes I have planned and the times of day I run them, each variable slightly changing the environment of the runs. I feel much more willing to go running in the morning, for example, than if I leave it to the evening when the streets are full of people and cars who I’ll have to weave around and confront at crossings. Similarly, I much prefer the bike path or the trails to pounding the streets around the city centre where I live, where there is traffic and noise no matter what time of day, and street venders galore with their carts to dodge and intersection after intersection after intersection.

Here, as I avoid running down actual streets, I have a limited variety of places to run – its either up the river, around the parks near my house, or into the hills across the bridge. From now on, my “hills” workouts have been officially removed from my plan, in favour of another tempo run. However, not running the hills will decrease my possible running environments down by a third, something I can’t deal with when I’m running the number of miles I have to for my marathon training plan.

I also just love the hills, with their steep trails winding up through trees until I burst up into the sunshine and have the reward of a beautiful view of the city in which I live. Even though I don’t have these runs scheduled on my training plan, I’ve been cheating slightly (sorry!).


Like Wednesday: 9 miles on the plan, 5 of those at MP. My 9-mile route is pretty similar to my long run route, and I want to keep that one fresh for Sunday’s 18 miler. I also got an email from my running group saying that training was restarting in the evening, and I wanted to go even though I knew that wouldn’t take me up to the 9 I had planned in total. So instead, I went on a 4-mile run up the trail to the top of the hill in the morning, knowing that then I could have 5 miles to run later in the day with the running team!

Do hills and speed workouts play different roles in a schedule? Yes and no. They both build up endurance and muscles playing on the power in the legs to boost you forward and upwards. However, hill workouts will never get you the speed of track workouts because of the incline. And especially for this hill, there is an almost 1000ft ascent in little over a mile. No way am I running 7, 8 or even 9 or 10-minute miles on that one!

My goal MP for a 4-hour marathon is 9:00/mile which is easy running speed for just a few miles. Because of this, I can change up my running environment to one that suits me more, and still continue with the plan – even enjoying the process a lot more than I would do if I was just following the same old running route over and over again.

In terms of my plan though, this slightly backfired as my running group coach decided that instead of running we would do… CIRCUITS. I still fitted in the extra miles to take me up to 8 for the day, and did my 9 miles on Thursday instead. It’s all about balance and not taking the training on the plan as a be-all-and-end-all.

Do you find that your enjoyment for working out varies on the environment you are in? Or can you just zone out and enjoy the exercise no matter where you find yourself?

Let me know in the comments section below, or send me a message on Instagram! I’d love to hear from you 😊 I hope you’ve had a good week, and enjoy the weekend!!

2 thoughts on “ENVIRONMENT: how training is affected by place

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