If there’s one debate that I hear over and over again, it’s whether treadmills or running outdoors is the better option. It seems to me
and this is totally scientific based upon my twitter and Facebook feeds that there is no in between. Either you are an indoor runner or an outdoor one, and when forced to run in an environment that is not your favorite, you are usually NOT a happy camper.
Is one method really better than the other? I’m honestly not sure. Any Google search of “treadmill vs outdoor” will get you about a million hits and you are certainly free to make your own opinions. You will probably get a similar workout with either provided you focus on your perceived exertion versus running the exact same pace indoors and outdoors. Most studies suggest raising the incline on the treadmill to 1% to help mimic the changes in terrain and wind resistance that you would encounter outdoors. Obviously, if you are training for a race, you should do at least a fair amount of that training in conditions you will be running in. Last I checked, most races don’t occur on treadmills, so make sure you at least do a few training runs outside before race day.
While it comes down to personal preference for many runners there are pros and cons to both methods.
Treadmill Running Pros
- no worries about safety
- you can run any time of day or any season without needing extra gear
- softer surface may be easier on your joints
- you can watch TV if you are so inclined
- no weather, temperature, or issues with the terrain to contend with
- you can run faster/complete speedwork when outdoor conditions might not be safe
Outdoor Running Pros
- peace and focus on nature that you can’t get on the treadmill – awakens the senses because you need to be focused on what’s going on around you
- you can run anywhere – at home, on vacation, on a business trip, during your kid’s soccer game
- more functional and realistic in respect to body mechanics and race-day
- generally more challenging because of changes in terrain or weather
- you need to finish your run if you want to get back home – you can’t just stop
- you can find new routes if you get bored
Treadmill Running Cons
- some people find treadmill running to be boring
- your gait is different – more quads and less hamstrings which can lead to injury
- most people don’t up the incline, thus making the workout too easy
- lack of fresh air and Vitamin D you would get if you were outside
- it isn’t free – you either need a gym or to fork over the dough for your own treadmill at home
- no ability to practice running downhill
Outdoor Running Cons
- risk of falling, jarring on joints from uneven and harder surfaces
- may be difficult to get outside to run with family commitments
- until you learn what gear you need, running outdoors in extreme temperatures can be difficult or dangerous
- safety concerns related to traffic and, sadly, people who may wish to harm you
Bottom line – whether you choose to run on the treadmill or outside, you are benefiting your health in many ways. The key is to find which method is the one that you will use, but make sure you get outside and do some running in an environment that will mimic any races you have coming up. Also, give yourself time to adjust if you are switching methods. Make sure to set the incline to at least 1% (and some sources even say 2-5%) to help reduce the risk of injury and give yourself a better workout.
So, which method do you prefer? Any pros or cons I might have missed?