Shoes and shorts is all Robert Knox needs for a good run based on time intervals once reserved for Olympic athletes

Runner Robert Knox is taking his outdoor running inside, to the state of the art facilities at Mount Royal University during the month of February as temperatures remain at record lows. 

According to a comparative study conducted by the University of Brighton, the energy cost of running outdoors exerts the same as you would on a treadmill by elevating the system’s incline to 1 per cent, which runners can change for a better workout.

When you’re seeking results from your workouts, it’s about how far you want to push your body to its limits. As opposed to the environmental factors you choose to work out in.  For post-secondary student Knox, 21, timing is key for a successful run.

Knox is an outdoor runner at heart keeping up with his cardio and endurance goals while engaging in his first year Criminal Justice studies in university — but during February’s cold snap he’s staying indoors to keep fit and healthy.

According to YYC Weather Page on Twitter, February 2019 is on record to be one of the coldest since 1953. Combined with the wind chill in Alberta temperatures were consistently in the low minus 25-35 numbers for almost six weeks straight.  For outdoor enthusiasts like Knox, he has been forced to workout indoors switching to the advantage of scientific technology for his workout.

“If I’m running outdoors during the summer usually I’ll have a course picked out that I’ve made for myself around my town — something that I’m familiar with.”

“And then while I’m on the run, I’ll pick points usually between trees or light posts or something or between certain areas that I’ll increase my speed, just to get a good sprint and then afterwards go back to my regular jogging pace.”

Knox has been an active runner most of his life.  He says he gets his habit from his mother.

Health IndoorOutdoorRunning Blackhorse3Knox practices sprint intervals as part of his running regime. Short jogging for a minute and thirty seconds followed by one minute of fast jogging is his regiment. Photo: Floyd Black Horse

“She’s a runner as well so that’s why I picked it up. We don’t really run together but she runs often and so do I. So it’s kind of in my blood.”

Knox is an active member of the Mount Royal University recreation center, a state-of-the-art training facility where users can engage in multi-disciplinary sports activities, including an indoor track featuring a 200 metre lane.

It also features cardio machines with internet and tv and outdoor views.  Knox works out for recreational activity.

“If I’m indoors on a track I’ll have sprint intervals based on time, so I’ll have a minute and 30 regular jogging and then a minute of fast jogging. And then I go back and forth in between trying to increase my speed every new sprint.”

Jared Fletcher, PHD, Assistant Professor in the Department of Health and Physical Education at Mount Royal, says blood flow is a large part of new research around HIIT, or High Intensity Interval Training.

Health IndoorOutdoor Blackhorse4Jared Fletcher says blood flow is a large part of new research around HIIT, or High Intensity Interval Training. Photo: Floyd Black Horse

“Athletes have been doing interval training for probably a hundred years or more. It used to be thought that only the elite athlete — only the Olympic athletes — would need to do high intensity interval training.”

“There’s some recent evidence out of primarily McMaster University in Hamilton suggesting that training in certain bouts (A period of time) are safe and effective even for people with coronary heart disease and diabetes etc. — and it’s very, very time efficient.”

Knox is doing interval laps at his school gym.  Wearing a cotton-top and cutoffs he’s prepped for building endurance as his main goal.  According to, new runners might run closer to one mile in 15 minutes.

Knox focuses on sweat when it comes to burning calories, and the track is much better for him than the treadmill.  The track results in the same workout he gets from being outside.

“If I’m running. Usually I’ll shake my legs about a bit. Just try and get the blood [flowing] maybe do a few light stretches — nothing too rigorous though. I’ll always have water with me whenever I go workout. And yeah, that’s about all the preparation: running shorts, running shoes, t-shirt and then I just take off.”

The HIIT activity can be performed indoors or outdoors, depending on the capacity your body sustains at maximum heart rate. According to, for someone 20 years old, 100-170 beats per minute is the average zone to be in at this age category.

When looking at beats per minute, you’re counting the number of pulses within sixty seconds at rest and by medical maximum heart rates per age group.  Fletcher takes a look at the fitness levels of each runner and how much they can endure.

“There’s different aspects of endurance that might restrict your performance.  We call that your robot capacity and certainly the fitter you are, the higher your level is the faster you can run. The other thing that we typically look at as coaches or physiologist is what is the functional reserve for that aerobic capacity you’re seeing. So when you’re running a 10k, are you at 90 percent of your maximum? Or are you at 60 percent of your maximum?”

“There’s different aspects of endurance that might restrict your performance.  We call that your robot capacity and certainly the fitter you are, the higher your level is the faster you can run.” – Jared Fletcher, PHD

Athletes participating in track might also mean pushing your functional reserves to the edge, as runners aim for more challenges.

“All else being equal, someone running 60 percent of their maximum — as you might imagine — can run a lot further than someone who is at 90 percent of their maximum. The 90 percent person is going to fatigue and slow down or stop before that person running at 60 percent of their max.”

Whether running indoors or outdoors, you’re getting the same workout depending on the energy you exert on yourself. Fletcher gives run times to measure by.

“So you can do basically the same workout for a two hour long, slow, nice easy run.  Or in terms of increasing your endurance or your fitness it’s much harder obviously as you can imagine. You’re going to go as hard as you possibly can through 30 seconds and you’re going to rest for three or four minutes and then you’re going to do it again and you’re going to repeat it four or five six times.”

“So it’s a very hard exercise period but we get the same results. We see the same benefits for it with endurance and fitness from that sort of five or six minute exercise belt compared to like a two hour exercise. So when athletes say – I know I don’t have enough time to exercise, time is the biggest factor to people who don’t exercise. Myself included.”

HIIT training can be done within 10-15 minute periods, as Fletcher says.  Individuals as fit as Knox are more eager to challenge their endurance especially when it comes to indoor running.  

Primarily, outdoor running provides the aerobic resistance by natural factors such as pavement and temperature.  When going inside, indoor track is where you want to push yourself a bit stronger to equalize the same resistance you’d get at parks or hills.

For Knox, he’s taking it easy on the track while he waits for warmer weather.  Knox says keeping fit and healthy is his only goal at this time.

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