Outside Running vs Treadmill: What Is Best For You - Atletikka
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Outside Running vs Treadmill

Outside Running vs Treadmill: What Is Best For You


The debate has always been open: What is best, outside running or treadmill running? Plainly put, there is not right answer; everything depends on you and your goal. Some people will claim outside running is better, some other will say treadmill.

Although outside running would mostly seem to be a preferred way of running, we cannot say it is the best method, it all depends on what you are looking to accomplish and how your body and mind react to each. Outside running has its benefits, as well as treadmill. We will give a quick overview of some things that are involved in the two.

These are the main reasons why outside running vs treadmill can work or not for you.

Treadmill: Pros and Cons

Treadmills are still very popular amongst people looking for a cardiovascular workout at home and in gyms.

Some of the advantages of treadmill running are:

  • Conditions are controlled as weather and temperature will not change.
  • It is a more structured workout. You control what you need from the machine.
  • When you are looking a purely cardiovascular work.
  • Can save the day if conditions outside are unbearable (weather).
  • If want to give your joints a rest (the treadmill is easier on joints than outside running), you can alternate with the treadmill occasionally.
  • Motivation can be found on completing a tempo or a threshold.
  • You control your pace and goal. It is you against you.
  • Great option for runners coming back from injury (if you are not ready for reaction forces of running on concrete or asphalt).
  • Access to pauses and restrooms when you need it.
  • You don’t need no one else for ‘the run’.
  • It can reduce the anxiety of traffic and other outside conditions.
  • The even and smooth surface will also provide you ‘controlled’ resistance.

While some of the cons in the treadmill can include:

  • There is no ‘running the elements’ factor. This means, weather, turns, downward running, etc don’t exist, limiting your ability to adapt your body to changing terrain and varying conditions.
  • The linear pattern does not activate much of the muscles as if you are running outside.
  • Sudden falls can occur causing serious injuries (specially if you don’t know how to handle starts and pauses at the beginning).
  • That treadmill will not treat your body naturally. The machine will propel your body forward, doing much of the work for you sometimes.
  • Treadmill can be hard on your hamstring. Your hamstring work harder because of working against the bell.

Treadmills are still in great use. Some +50 million Americans  use a treadmill each year.

Outside Running: Pros and Cons

For the majority of runners the use of treadmill forms part of their training, no doubt, but ultimately their training will most likely be performed outdoors. This is where the real race happens. Your body will be trained to the elements such as varying weather, varying terrain, and the real conditions.

Some of the benefits of running outside include:

  • Generally speaking, you will expend more energy running outside vs a treadmill.
  • If there is no equipment available, running can be done at your own discretion, anytime, anywhere (provided conditions allow it).
  • Enjoying nature and outdoor scenery can be an extra motivator.
  • Your body will be better trained; more muscles will be activated.
  • It provides sport-specific training for road races.
  • Running outside will give you a more natural gait cycle.
  • It can be motivating as it requires you to complete a distance goal rather than just stepping off a machine.
  • The sun can provide a boost on Vitamin D and mental health.
  • Can deliver a bigger energy boost, and less depression compared to running inside.
  • Running groups can give you a benchmark of improvement in case you are looking to improve performance.


Some cons of cons of running outside can include:

  • Risk of injury: Pavement and concrete can be hard on joints (specially knees).
  • Running in the dark, alone, with sharp turns with blind spots for cars, can be a very bad idea.

The Bottom Line

As we said at the beginning, there is no final word as to pointing to the best method for running; it all depends om how your body adapts to each, and what your ultimate goal is. If you want a structured, controlled, cardiovascular workout, definitely a treadmill will be your best option. If to the contrary, you want to face the elements, and your training is focused towards completing a race, outside running needs to be the core of your training, and maybe, complemented by some treadmill training (but limiting it to no more than 30% of your training).

What is the best method? Your body and goal will give you the answer.


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