One of the most common questions asked by new or inexperienced runners is whether they should stick to running on a treadmill or venture outside. There are pros and cons to each, but the key thing is finding what works best for your personal style as there is no one answer that fits every person.
The treadmill vs outside running debate has been a heated one in the fitness world for several years now. Countless articles, studies, and videos have been written comparing both options, and the general consensus is that running outside provides more benefits than running on a treadmill. Still, many runners opt to run on a treadmill because of convenience, safety concerns (disease spreading), or lack of motivation to brave the elements.
This article will take a more in-depth look at the benefits and drawbacks of each, then help you decide whether or not to run outside.
This is a great place to start if you are new to running or are returning to the sport after a long layoff. In fact, there are many people who have never run outside but set up their treadmill for a workout and find that they really enjoy the experience and continue to progress from there. The key is to use good form by staying upright and using shorter strides until your endurance increases.
The Benefits of Running on a Treadmill
Running on a treadmill is convenient and can be done almost anywhere. This is a commonly cited reason for people who find it too cold or dangerous to run outside in the winter months, for example. If you have time to drive to the gym, get changed and get out on a treadmill, you have time for a run; it doesn't take very long at all to warm up or cool down.
Running outside can be dangerous if you live in an area where you have to worry about cars and other animals. When you run on the treadmill, however, the only thing that's a danger is yourself if you don't pay attention to your form. Running outside means risking injury from being hit by a car or tripping over sticks and stones, but it also means more mental challenges because of wind and other environmental factors.
If you are worried about getting injured while running outside, you can measure your progress by the numbers on your treadmill. When you run outside, however, it's more difficult to measure improvement because there are so many different factors that affect your ability to run faster and farther.
When to Use a Treadmill?
- If you are new to running or have had a long layoff and are finding that you can't run outside.
- If you live in an area where it's unsafe to run outside.
- If you have bad knees or if your joints are weak and can't support your weight when running on uneven surfaces.
- If the weather is cold, wet, too hot, or too windy and making it hard to run comfortably without overheating.
- If you are trying to build up stamina to run longer and farther but can't run outside because it's unsafe.
- If you want to make your workouts easy to fit into a busy schedule, or if you aren't able to get out of the house easily.
The Benefits of Running Outdoor
Improved mental strength
Running outside is more challenging mentally. When you are running on the treadmill, you have control over everything: the speed, the incline, or even the distance if you only have time for a short run. If it's hot or cold or raining outside, you don't have any control over those elements either. So running outdoors requires mental toughness and commitment because if something happens to prevent you from completing your workout (weather, injury, etc. ), you are out of luck.
Improved cardiovascular endurance
Your heart rate will be higher during a workout outdoors, so you will work harder to maintain your pace and make it to the end. This is the same reason running is better for you than jogging: When you are jogging, your heart rate is lower because it's easier to breathe, but you don't get as much benefit because it takes longer to build up your endurance levels.
There's no denying that you will have more energy when you run outside. The fresh air and sunlight, the scenery around you, and the sounds of nature all combine to give you a much-needed boost of adrenaline.
When to Run Outside?
- If you want to build up endurance and stamina for longer runs.
- If you live in an area with a lot of hills or other natural obstacles that make it hard to run without getting tired.
- If you want to hit a specific distance goal when running outdoors.
- If you want to see the sunlight, fresh air, and nature when running.
- If you are looking for an extra challenge that will improve your mental strength.
Making the choice
With all of these factors to consider, it's possible to make a choice between treadmill vs outside running that will work best for you. You can run outside when it doesn't matter if you get caught in a rainstorm, but you will have to be prepared for the elements. If you have bad knees and are afraid of running on uneven surfaces, you can use a treadmill. If it's cold and wet outside, you can run outside; however, if it's raining as well, you'll probably want to bring an umbrella or some strong waterproof material just in case. Whichever you choose between (treadmill vs outside running), remember to take the time to warm up and cool down properly before you head out, especially if you are just starting out.
It's important to remember that both running on a treadmill vs outdoor running are beneficial exercises, but they're not the same. Running on a treadmill gives you a workout like you would find at the gym, but without having to change clothes or deal with traffic. However, if you combine both exercises (with the goal of eventually running outside), you'll get the best of both worlds: cardiovascular conditioning and the fresh air and sunlight that will make your heart beat faster and make you feel wonderful.