Get onto the running on the treadmill vs running outside debate, and everyone has an opinion. Some runners will tell you that being stuck indoors on a ‘hamster wheel’ is worse than death. But a lot will praise the comfort of air conditioning, video screens and protection from the weather that running on the treadmill affords.

Away from all the subjectiveness there are bona fide pros and cons to each type – this article gives as balanced view as you’re going to get.

Running Outside is Freedom

Lovers of running in the great outdoors often wear their hearts on their sleeves. Going for a run should be about releasing those shackles, throwing on those shoes and just running.

Certainly and bit romantic, but there is a lot to be said for fresh air, watching the scenery go by, and even checking out new places on foot.

Running on the Treadmill is better for training for a race

The real bonus with most advanced treadmills is you can punch in the hills and lay out that match exactly the race you’re preparing for.

This advantage can not be underestimated. By allowing your body to get fully attuned to the inclines and declines of the particular course you’ll be facing, you are maximising your prep.

The Treadmill is not an ‘Authentic’ Running Experience

There are some obvious points where running on the treadmill is not similar to ‘real running’.

For one, the running belt is moving so in theory you could just jump up and down as it moves and you’d register as moving forward. When running outside it takes more effort to keep moving forward.

There are also factors like wind resistance that make running outside more of a ‘work out’.

Fortunately, some clever folk have worked out that by adding about 1% gradient to the treadmill you can balance the relative ease of indoor running.

Running on the Treadmill Ruins Your Knees -myth or fact?

This is not really true- both forms of running are high impact. You’ll have to consult your physician for a full rundown of the impact of physical impact on your body.

Having said that there are several factors that can favour either running on the treadmill, or running outside may be for you.

On the one hand, the treadmill can possibly actually be softer going than the slippery, uneven outdoor surfaces. On the flip side, you may find that an innate fear of hitting the edge of the treadmill may make you run with shorter and unnatural strides. This ‘under striding’ over an extended period of time can cause of discomfort and maybe even long term damage.

In short, both of them could cause damage to your knees. For treadmill lovers, it’s best not to get addicted and mix it up with some outdoor runs too.

Running on the Treadmill Doesn’t Teach you to Pace

The treadmill is ‘set and forget’ which is a sort after thing in this day and age. You just plug and it does it all for you. Beautiful. But if you’re hoping to get into race mode, this can be a real disadvantage.

One key skill of completing a race is your pacing. In other words your ability to speed up and slow down over the course of a race. This allows you to conserve your energy whilst keeping to pre-decided pace targets.

The automatic pacing of the treadmill means that your body can’t ¬†develop this ‘runners sixth sense’.

Of course, if you’re not planning to take your running to the races (but why wouldn’t you?) this problem doesn’t effect you.

However, if you are training for a race getting running outside must become part of your training routine.

So which is it?

We’ve seen that both running on the treadmill and running outdoors have their advantages.

The reality for most runners is you need to have some flexibility. Enjoy the outdoors and it’s benefits. And when the weather closes in, or you need some really exact course training get running on the treadmill.

Articles used for this piece: