Running Outdoors vs Running on a Treadmill

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This is a common question I get asked. In this article, I’m going to list the pros and cons of running on a treadmill vs outdoors and help make you’re running more enjoyable regardless of whether if it’s indoors or outdoors.

Treadmill Running Pros

  • No weather, temperature, or terrain issues.
  • Can stop anytime you need or want.
  • Can workout while watching tv if you like.
  • Can adjust the incline and speed
  • No concerns about personal safety.

Treadmill Running Cons

  • The time per mile drags
  • Don’t expend as many calories as outdoor running
  • Same scenery
  • Gets boring

Outdoor Running Pros

  • You can run anywhere.
  • It’s much more functional for daily activities.
  • You get to enjoy the scenery, get fresh air, notice changing seasons, weather, and enjoy nature.
  • It’s generally more challenging and you expend more calories.
  • It’s likely more motivating. You must complete a distance goal and can’t just stop & get off.
  • You can run more miles without feeling like it dragged
  • Most people report a greater feeling of accomplishment running outside.
  • You can take new routes and see something new every day.

Outdoor Running Cons

  • Bad weather conditions
  • Not as safe and secure
  • Allergy season isn’t best to be outdoors

What is the difference between running outside and on a treadmill?

When running on the treadmill, the belt is moving under you and there is no wind resistance for your body to counter, so it’s more likely to be easier. On the other hand, when running outdoors, your legs around propelling you to move forward while pushing through the resistance of the wind.

What can be done to make treadmill running effectively?

To make treadmill running effectively as outdoor running, scientific research explained that “by increasing the incline to 1%, you can offset the lack of wind resistance and the belt moving under you to make treadmill running the same effort as running outdoors.”

Also, in regards to VO2 max, research has also shown that it’s the same regardless of whether you choose to run on a treadmill or outdoors.
I personally feel that your biggest concern to run effectively is having good biomechanical running patterns. With that being said, running on a treadmill or outdoors doesn’t have an effect on your biomechanical running patterns. You have control of improving those patterns regardless of where you’re running.

When is it better to run on a treadmill than outside?

When the weather and footing are bad

This is the most obvious benefit of treadmill running, but it’s important to include because elements affect every runner differently.

Personally, I have a difficult time running in really humid or hot weather, aside from that running outdoors in the cold, rain, etc. is my go-to running method. You might not like this and that’s completely ok, using the treadmill correctly can be just as effective and fun!

Remember, getting in a good workout on the treadmill is better than avoiding running in general or risking injury in dangerous weather conditions.

How to make treadmill running enjoyable?

You have the ability to set up your own sequence by changing the incline and speed so it becomes challenging and fun! Many of the more advanced treadmills allow you to create your own unique course. However, if your gym doesn’t have these treadmills, you can just manually adjust the incline levels and speed so you get the most out of your cardio session.

When is it better to run outdoors than on a treadmill?

While running on the treadmill can be beneficial,  it can also be detrimental to your long-term development if the only time you run outside is to race. Running outdoors is functional and trains muscles in a way you move on a daily basis. Our bodies are designed to move 3D, running outdoors on different surfaces can challenge your body and keep it fun. Some things to keep in mind if you choose to run on a treadmill.

The treadmill gets boring

For most people, running on the treadmill is boring. Without scenery passing you by and something to take your mind off the time ticking in front of you, it’s too easy to look at the clock every 30 seconds and get discouraged that more time hasn’t passed since your last glance.

You don’t learn how to pace on a treadmill

When running on a treadmill, most people usually stick to the same pace until they’ve completed the duration of their cardio session. Unfortunately, this method doesn’t teach you how to properly find and maintain pace on your own. Because of this, it prevents you from testing your ability to pace yourself at various speeds. Therefore, if you’re preparing for a race, you would not have developed your pace which is extremely important to improve your split time and ultimately finishing strong.

In my opinion, you should approach running on a treadmill as you should with everything in life – in moderation. What’s the take-home message from this?

I would say that all things equal, both expend about the same amount of energy. The main factors that I usually see are weather and form in energy consumption. Many people run inefficiently on either surface which to me is where the caloric consumption is larger. A person with better form is able to train longer and rest less so they are able to burn more calories. The treadmill can be a great training equipment that’s convenient for those who live in difficult weather conditions. With that being said, you should still occasionally run outdoors to develop specific skills that will increase your stamina.

Do you have any ideas to make running on the treadmill enjoyable? Share it will us below, we would love to hear your story! If you found this article helpful or have any suggestions on next blogs please comment below. Thank you!

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