At first glance, running on the treadmill seems relatively similar to running outdoors. While technique is similar, there are a few comparable differences that will impact running speed.
Is one option better than the other? There are various elements that contribute to your personal running experience and many say treadmill running is an easier option. However, home treadmills aren't preferred by all, some people enjoy getting outdoors for a run.
If you are a beginner runner a treadmill is a great training tool. Treadmill running is a great way to practice running at higher speeds and for longer durations in a controlled environment. This will help you become better prepared for the more challenging elements of outdoor running.
What is the difference between running outside and on the treadmill?
One of the major factors that impact running speed is wind resistance. Even when you run outdoors on a calm day with low wind speeds, you still have to overcome the effects of air resistance. Air resistance creates pressure against your body as you run, making it more difficult to pick up speed. This resistance doesn’t exist when you are running on a treadmill. As a result, you are able to pick up speed easier.
When running outdoors it is common to unintentionally slow down as your tire. However, a moving running belt forces you to keep up with the pace you’ve set, allowing you to maintain and average pace and set goals. The combination of a moving belt and lack of air resistance makes it easier to run at a faster pace on a treadmill without exerting more effort.
Another big difference between running on a treadmill vs outdoors is the environment. Typically, treadmill running is a popular choice as you are in a controlled environment unaffected by rain, heat or cold. However, some people prefer running outdoors for the fresh air, changing scenery and challenge of running in a varied environment.
Advantages of Running on the Treadmill
Treadmill running offers many advantages that you simply cannot get from an outdoor run. If your running goal is speed or maintaining a consistent pace, a treadmill may be a better option as it will allow you to set your pace with precision and track your progress. Running indoors will usually be a more comfortable option as you know what to expect, no getting lost or encountering a sudden downpour of rain. Training on a treadmill gives you the ability to set the temperature of the room allowing you to perform to your peak conditions. When running outside you are more prone to injury from landing awkwardly on a rock or placing stress on your joints from the repeated impact of landing on a hard surface. A running belt on the other hand offers more support, the cushioning system in the platform is designed to absorb shock. The consistent and flat surface also reduces your risk of injury or strain. If you are training for a cross country race or marathon, a treadmill is a great way to practice maintaining speed and running in intervals. Treadmills are used by professional athletes to help them train. For athlete Tim Van Berkel, treadmill training is a part of his daily routine although outdoor running is where he performs best. Stimulating the motion of running outdoors can be done on the treadmill by increasing the incline 1% to mimic the oxygen cost of running outdoors.
Check out our best tips for your treadmill workout here
Advantages of Running Outside
Some people like to start off their day by going for a run. Getting outdoors, taking in the scenery and enjoying the weather can be an invigorating activity and great way to get in some vitamin C. When out for a run you have endless route options which can be more stimulating than looking at a wall or treadmill screen. If you are training for a marathon or race, running outdoors will be necessary. Although treadmill running is a great method for improving speed and pace, a treadmill cannot fully stimulate an outdoor running experience. Users will also need to practice running outdoors to get accustomed to the terrain, shift in incline, wind resistance, weather and more. Squeezing in some outdoor runs in between treadmill training will provide the conditioning and weather acclimatisation needed for a marathon or race.
Which is best: Treadmill or Outdoor Running?
If you have run both outdoors and on a treadmill, you will recognise the difference between the two. Choosing which type of running best suits you will largely depend on your preference. Most outdoor runners enjoy being in nature, the changing environment tends to be more stimulating and enjoyable, especially if you have a FreeRun Curved Treadmill. The FreeRun range is a manual treadmill which isn’t controlled by motors, giving you the benefit of setting your own speed and experiencing a realistic running experience. However, some find that running outdoors makes it harder to maintain a consistent pace or monitor your speed. In this case a treadmill will be a more comfortable and supportive training machine. Runners with joint pain may find running outdoors too high impact and stressful on the knees and joints. The treadmills cushioned belt will be a better option in these instances.
If you are currently an indoor runner and want to venture to the outdoors, getting in a mix of indoor and outdoor runs will help you make a smooth transition. Combining both styles of running is also suggested when preparing for any outdoor running event.
If your goal is to increase your speed and average pace, a treadmill will allow you to easily set a benchmark and witness your progress. Workout data can be a useful tool for setting goals and going the extra mile with each run. Otherwise, if you aren't concerned with speed and prefer to go the distance an outdoor run may be a better option. Running outdoors may offer a greater sense of accomplishment as you can see the distance you’ve travelled.
Whether you choose to run outside or on a treadmill, both options will benefit you physically and mentally. Although both options have different effects on your speed and pace, overtime with practise your speed will naturally increase. Running outdoors will typically be more strenuous on the body, therefore influencing your ability to maintain an even speed. Since treadmill speeds are set you will be able to keep up with your speed and maintain pace for longer without the resistance of air pressure. Overall, the best type of running for you will be the type you enjoy and get the most out of.