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Outdoor exercisers can reap unexpected benefits by moving indoors

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Road runners and cyclists may dread moving their exercise routines indoors as winter approaches but fitness experts say it could be an opportunity to fine-tune a familiar routine or a chance to discover new skills.

A man jogs along a path around the Central Park Reservoir with the buildings of Fifth Avenue in the backround in New York's famed Central Park, July 15, 2003. REUTERS/Mike Segar

Jessica Matthews, a California-based yoga instructor and exercise physiologist with the American Council on Exercise, said road cyclists, racers and runners trickle into yoga classes.

“The cold weather might have forced them indoors but they discovered something,” said Matthews, adding that a change in the weather can offer be a chance to supplement their workout with cross-training, group fitness classes or even workout DVDs.

“Runners and cyclists often spend little time on strength training,” Matthews explained. “But we know it is a critical component to enhance what you do and do it safely.”

Outdoor runners who shun indoor training, she added, could be missing an opportunity to fine-tune their regimen on a treadmill.

“Many hear the word treadmill and say, ‘No,’” she said. “But with a treadmill you have at your fingertips the ability to tailor, customize and vary your workout every single day: to focus on speed, or to add intervals, or hills.”

And your route is not limited to your neighborhood.

Suzanne Bowen, a Panama City Beach, Florida-based fitness expert, has always trained indoors.

“Whether dealing with heat or cold, you have to find something you like to do indoors, something you’re comfortable with,” said Bowen, the creator of online streaming fitness classes and the “Tighten Tone and Stretch” fitness DVD.

For exercisers married to their outdoor routines who feel forced inside, Gregory Chertok, a New Jersey-based sport and exercise psychology consultant for the American College of Sports Medicine, suggests a gradual approach.

“They may want to dedicate one or two of their workouts per week to indoors, in order to slowly adjust,” he said. “It takes some of the trauma away.”

He said perspective management, or the ability to view events as neither good nor bad but neutral, is among the most powerful tools in both general and sports psychotherapy.

When we’re forced to engage in new workouts, Chertok explained, the muscles are surprised and effectiveness is enhanced. “Physiologically the body responds,” he said.

In the social setting of a gym, he added the lone outdoor runner can limber up his social skills.

“There are great benefits to solitary exercise: it’s meditative. It’s a chance to ruminate and an opportunity for alone time,” he said. “But there are also benefits of working out in a social setting.”

Chertok said adopting a flexible lifestyle in sports or exercise can lead to benefits in other areas.

“The skill of emotional flexibility is very transferable,” he added.

Editing by Patricia Reaney