Pros and Cons of Using Indoor Tracks for Walking and Running Workouts

Five seniors walking on an indoor track

Vicky Kasala / The Image Bank / Getty Images

An indoor track is a great way to get in a walking or running workout away from the weather without having to resort to using a treadmill. Leave the jacket and pack in your locker and enjoy a workout in climate-controlled comfort.

Where to Find an Indoor Track Near You

You can find indoor tracks in a variety of places. Here are typical ones to search:

  • Private athletic clubs
  • Public recreation facilities
  • School athletic facilities
  • Community recreation centers
  • Workplace recreation facilities

Tips for Effective Indoor Track Workouts

Indoor tracks are excellent places to enjoy interval workouts, varying your pace for a cardio challenge. You can do fast walking workouts to build speed and aerobic capacity.

For example, do an interval walking workout of ​short bouts of walking as fast as you can for 30 seconds, slow for two minutes, then as fast as you can for 30 seconds, repeating 15 to 20 times. You can do longer high-intensity intervals by walking briskly or jogging for several minutes, slowing for two minutes, and picking up the pace again for several minutes.

Tracks often have built-in landmarks that can be used for intervals, such as shorter and longer sides to an oval. This is an easy cue for going faster for an interval and then slowing down for an interval and can eliminate the need to use a timer. You can also walk one lap quickly and then slow down for two.

Depending on the facility, there may be walking and running groups who do workouts with a coach who will set the pace. A coach or trainer may be helpful if you want to get faster, need accountability, or want to transition from walking to running.

What We Like
  • Can walk or run your desired speed

  • Climate control

  • Safety and security

  • Restrooms, water, and showers readily available

What We Don't Like
  • Can get boring

  • No incline or surface stability challenges

  • Circling in one direction may lead to muscle imbalance

  • Often requires a membership cost

Advantages of Indoor Tracks for Walking and Running

Indoor tracks can be a great solution if you want to walk without worries. Here are some of the advantages.

  • Speed Flexibility: Unlike walking at a mall or getting your walking workout on the sidewalk, you don't have to feel self-conscious about walking vigorously. You can stroll, speed walk, racewalk, jog, or run without feeling out of place.
  • Climate Control: There is no rain, snow, heat, or wind to contend with on an indoor track. It may not be perfect, but it probably beats what's going on outdoors, and it is consistent. You'll know how to dress for it from day to day. Plus, they keep the lights on, you don't have to worry about walking in the dark.
  • Closed Course: You can time yourself and find your speed because the distance around the track is known and it is usually posted. You won't have obstacles in your path or traffic lights to slow you down. Indoor tracks designate which direction all must circle, usually alternating days.
  • Changing Scenery: While a treadmill provides many of the same benefits, with an indoor track you are actually circling the facility. Many have windows so you can view the scenery, or the track may be located above or alongside a pool or sports court so you can watch the action.
  • GPS Speed and Distance Monitoring: You can't use GPS-based speed and distance monitors, smartwatches, and apps on a treadmill because they think you are stationary. But you are moving around an indoor track and if your device can acquire the satellite signal inside the building, you will get a reading. However, some buildings still block the signal or the signal will jump around and give you spurious speed and distance readings.
  • Appropriate Surface: Properly designed indoor tracks use a surface that is gentle on the joints, as opposed to the concrete surface found inside malls. However, some indoor tracks are simply painted on concrete, so this advantage is not universal.
  • Safety and Security: You won't have any traffic hazards, loose dogs, uneven surfaces, or lurking muggers.
  • Restrooms, Water, and Showers: Almost all indoor track facilities have locker rooms and full amenities. You don't have to carry a water bottle as you can use the water fountain. You don't have to worry about being too far from a restroom if you have bladder issues or get runner's trots.

Drawbacks of Indoor Tracks

Indoor tracks are not for everyone, especially if you have a choice of walking outdoors. Here are some of the drawbacks.

  • Monotony: The scenery may change a bit but it still may be mind-numbing to circle and circle and circle. You may want to bring a friend for conversation, or listen to music, audiobooks, or podcasts as you circle.
  • No Incline: Indoor tracks are level, so you don't get any hill training if you only use an indoor track. To get hill training or increase your heart rate, you may want to leave the track and walk up and down stairs in the facility every few minutes.
  • Circling One Direction: Circling only in one direction for more than an hour at a time may lead to muscle imbalance. Tracks usually alternate directions each day, but your workout schedule may mean you end up always going clockwise and never counter-clockwise. Be aware of this and aim to add in the other direction in your daily activities.
  • Membership Cost: Indoor tracks are usually found in facilities that require a membership or usage fee.

By Wendy Bumgardner
Wendy Bumgardner is a freelance writer covering walking and other health and fitness topics and has competed in more than 1,000 walking events.