Treadmill Vs. the Great Outdoors.

So you want to beat the boredom of the continual pounding of the treadmill, the air conditioned room that dries out your mouth as you gasp for air watching the little guy run round the track on the small screen, flashing with numbers that are becoming less and less relevant; this is the third day in a row that you have walked through the doors of your local gym.

As you run you are thinking; “why don’t I run outdoors once in a while?” Finishing up early while convincing yourself you are tired from yesterday’s training you grab a coffee to go and a fresh blueberry muffin to reward yourself for your hard work.

If this sounds like you, then here are a few tips to help you make your mind up if the treadmill is where you run best or if it is time to switch it up and get outside: 

  • The belt moving underneath you means there is no wind resistance for your body to counterbalance making it easier to run indoors. So if you are someone who runs outside then you are working slightly harder compared to those running regularly on treadmills.
  • Sports scientists have shown that an incline of 1%, means you’ll will be using the same energy as running outdoors with no incline (assuming all other variables are the same). This is why most sports science studies regularly set the treadmill at 1% incline to compensate for the outdoor/indoor difference.
  • Most decent treadmills are rated at 2 kW or more so don’t forget to think about your energy bills and the environment; outdoor running is effectively free.
  • Running outside can be done virtually anywhere, so it’s easy to fit in a run in your lunch-break, before work or when on holiday; whereas reliance on a treadmill means that you are limited to running at the gym or at home (if you have a treadmill at home).
  • Running outside means changing scenery, which can help take your mind off those aching legs or burning lungs. Many people find running on a treadmill boring as the scenery doesn’t change.


If Outdoor running is not for you or you are just looking for a break from those unforgiving pavements:


If you don’t really relish the idea of running in the rain, strong winds or other inclement weather weather then sticking with the treadmill would be your best option. You can stay at home in the warm while still burning the calories. If you enjoy incline training or think you should start, then training treadmill style could encourage you to push yourself further, you can choose how much, how far and the treadmill gives you the ability to run hills even if you live in a flat area.

If you’re worried about the impact that running  on the road is having on your joints then maybe getting a bit of treadmill training in to help look after them would help. A treadmill has its own little spring, making the impact on the joints much less, when you are running on the road concrete has no give whereas the belt on the treadmill has a little give in it giving your feet and knees a little bit of a break from those harsh surfaces. Don’t forget having good pair of professionally fitted trainers to help protect those joints and give the foot the right guidance it needs is still essential in avoiding injuries.

So overall most people find running outside more favourable; as the pros generally outweigh the cons. However every person has their own preferences and priorities, so whilst one or the other is an option, why not use both as part of your overall running programme? This way you get to experience the best of both worlds. Either way what ever keeps you running happy is the most important thing!



Ryan has worked in the sports industry since 1999 and has a wealth of experience across most subjects. Ryan holds a BSc in microbiology and has studied sports physiology in great detail in his own time. His main areas of specialisation are: footwear construction, footwear technology, strength & conditioning and anatomy & physiology. He splits his 13 hours a week exercise between, Kickboxing, MMA, Crossfit, Rock Climbing and Running.