Treadmill vs Outside Running

✨Treadmill VS outdoor running ✨


The days are getting shorter & the temperatures are dropping as we head into winter. A common question runners have: is treadmill running the same as outdoor running?

While we think the treadmill is a great tool for training, outdoor training is usually the best bet if the conditions are safe!

Benefits of treadmill running

✅ Set speed to assure you are able to pace correctly:

Pacing is one of the most important parts about running. Being able to train in the correct zones for easy days can maximize your recovery. It is also a great tool to ensure you are staying in the right paces for workout days. Instead of surging to find the pace, it sets it for you.

✅ safe environment

Icy roads? Dark and dangerous neighborhood? -40 degree windchill? The treadmill can be a great option in these conditions! Before the treadmill, what did runners do? Skip runs! The treadmill provides an outlet to get the mileage in regardless of the environment outside!

✅ Can simulate hills

Living in a flat environment can be challenging to find hills. Many of our Florida or Minnesota athletes struggle with finding large enough hills for workouts and hill simulations. The treadmill incline can provide this to our athlete.

✅ Can simulate hotter environments

If you are training for a race in a warmer climate and you live in a freezing state the treadmill can help you simulate temperatures that are close to 60-70 degrees depending on the temperature of the gym or your basement 🙂


❌ Does not simulate the exact stride & muscles engagement as outdoor running.

The treadmills belt actually pulls your legs back with every stride. This causes hamstrings to do less work on the treadmill. Translate this muscle memory back to the road and sometimes tight hamstrings or injuries on back side pop up. We want to make sure the body does not get too accustomed to this type of running. Some suggestions to mitigate this are using a 1-2% incline on the treadmill and continuing with strength training like deadlifts and squats.

❌ Does not provide exposure to outside elements.

WIND will slow you down! SUN will have effects on you! When you train in a controlled environment you are limiting your exposure to what you will face on race day. Many athletes and coaches believe you should train in the environments you race in. You want to have less added stress and unknowns on race day as possible. Knowing you were able to combat the elements in training can be a huge confidence booster in non-perfect race day conditions.

❌ Doesn’t allow you to learn how set your own pace outside.

Many runners struggle with pacing. It is by far one of the hardest parts of running to learn. Treadmill limits opportunities to pace yourself outside therefore often prolonging the process of becoming a good pacer. Pacing is important! Trying to get workouts in outside is important because you will need to learn how to pace on race day!

❌ Can decrease confidence

We hear almost daily, “but I did the workout on the treadmill. I am not sure I can replicate it outside” or after nailing a workout they preface it with “but I did it on the treadmill”. Believing in yourself is one of the most important parts of running. Often runners who perform key workouts on the treadmill become unsure they can replicate it outside. Running outside tends to build more confidence!



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The transition back to exclusively running outside needs to be GRADUAL if you were doing all or most of your mileage on the treadmill, and we see runners get injured from jumping to 100% outdoor running too quickly. WHY❓

✅DIFFERENT MUSCLE UTILIZATION: Treadmill belts assist leg turnover which doesn’t fully utilize your muscles. Muscles, such as your hamstring muscles, don’t need to fire as much with the treadmill propelling you forward

✅SURFACE DIFFERENCES: The treadmill is a much softer surface than the roads, so the stress on your muscles, connective tissue and joints is far greater outside. Recovery from each run outside can take longer because of this

✅LATERAL MOVEMENT DIFFERENCES: When running outside, you must turn to change directions using the muscles that allow you to do that. The treadmill doesn’t require you to turn so those muscles get weak from months of treadmill running

✅ENVIRONMENTAL FACTORS: Factors like wind, heat, cold, and hills can be a shock to the system. Yes, you can simulate hills on a treadmill but wind cannot be replicated inside 💨

✅MENTAL ENERGY EXPENDITURE: The mental energy expended on a treadmill versus outside is very different. The treadmill can be mentally draining because it’s monotonous, but when outdoor running you must focus on pace and being aware of your surroundings 👀

🔥Don’t transition ALL of your runs to outside right away. Each week, add a day of easy running to outside. Plan for this to take 4-6 weeks total

🔥Get all of your easy runs outside FIRST, then do a workout or long run outside once all those easy runs are transitioned

🔥Slow your runs down a bit to account for the environmental factors. 10-30 seconds per mile slower, depending on hills, weather, wind, etc.

🔥Find a flat area or use the track for your first workout back to ease the transition

🔥Your workouts may be slower than they were on the treadmill outside right away. Don’t worry! Your body will recalibrate to outdoor

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