Transition Back To Outdoor Running From The Treadmill


Transitioning Back to Outdoor Running Spring is here! It is that amazing time of year where the days are getting longer, the sun is starting to shine, the snow is starting to melt, and the temperatures are rising just enough where we start to venture off our treadmills onto the roads again. Some athletes in the upper north will spend 2-4 months running 80% of their runs on the treadmill! We chatted earlier in the winter about the pros/cons of running on the treadmill. The biggest factor at play is that treadmill running is different than outside running. Making the transition to outdoor running again can be a tricky time for athletes, and we want to make sure we do it gradually to avoid injury.

How is the stride/gait on the treadmill different from on the road?

How should someone start the transition back into running more outside?

What is the best way to gradually transition off the treadmill?

What should someone do to ensure they don’t get injured outside?

If something feels off or harder – what should you do?

How long does it usually take to fully transition back to 100% outside running?

Will it feel harder outside running for some people?

Will the find/elements be a factor for awhile?

Any advice for people who will be racing shortly after making this transition?


It’s that time of year again when temps are warming up in colder climate areas and people want to get outside for more of their runs! ☀️

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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