No matter which runner you ask if they prefer treadmill running or outdoor running, you can pretty much guarantee they’re going to have an opinion. There are running purists who hate treadmill running, others who struggle to measure their pace without manual controls in front of them, and others who love the accuracy of an indoor workout. In either case, neither side is wrong.
Both methods have their advantages and disadvantages, but they can both improve your strength and speed. Here are the differences between running outdoors and on a treadmill.
Advantages of Treadmill Running
Running outdoors is sometimes impossible, which is why the treadmill is useful. This does not mean you should keep the treadmill exclusively for rainy days. When running on a treadmill, you have full control over your incline, pace, interval, and rest period. Eventually, you will get used to the treadmill movements, making it easier for you to maintain a pace when running outdoors without checking your watch constantly.
On a treadmill, you’re more motivated to perform tempo runs or threshold runs than when you’re left on your own outside. The treadmill gives you an advantage when you’re training in conditions that might otherwise be problematic outside.
According to a study, running on a treadmill and running outside results in the same VO2 max. While outside running may feel more challenging, what is going on inside your body is very similar. Aside from that, sometimes it’s better to go easy on your joints. Impact injuries and overuse injuries are common among runners, and running on a cushioned belt is not as harsh as running on concrete.
Outside Running Has Its Benefits, Too
On a sunny day, it’s hard not to be tempted to lace up and hit the road. Therefore, you will use more energy than on a treadmill. When you run outside, you activate more muscles since your feet need to grab the ground to move forward. A treadmill helps with some of that labor since it spins the belt.
Although running on a treadmill does not change biomechanical patterns from running outside, running outdoors is much more similar to how one moves naturally. Basically, you’re working out by yourself, and you’re not constrained by the parameters of the treadmill, which can shorten people’s strides.
In addition to activating more muscles, running outside gives you the freedom to run anywhere you like. You may become deconditioned and weak from only running inside, which puts you at a greater risk of injury when you go back outside to run. Even worse, you can suffer an injury when you overexert a particular muscle or bone.
Despite how tough walking is, it’s beneficial for your bones. When you run on a rough surface, like asphalt or concrete, your bones are going to be strengthened a little more than if you run on a treadmill. By contrast, treadmills are designed to minimize the impact, meaning your joints will be protected from the stress of running.
Each type of running has its pros and cons. Treadmills are great for people who only want to exercise their cardiovascular system. But if you’re training for a race, running outside will definitely be more beneficial. Ultimately, you should try to work both options into your routine as much as possible.