Unlike a lot of sports, running can be done inside and out, that's just one of the reasons why running is the best sport. Most runners have a strong preference for running outdoors vs treadmills, but there are pros and cons to each. So whether you like to brisk the air with a run outside or take it indoors for a good sweat, let's break down the differences between running outdoors vs treadmills.
Benefits of Running Outdoors
Running outdoors is the favored version for most runners, and for good reason too. Running outdoors means you actually are putting in more work and expending more energy than you would on a treadmill. Hitting the pavement means that you're activating more muscles by grabbing the ground with your feet and propelling yourself forward. There's also a greater terrain outdoors, which throws off your balanced stride and demands stronger muscle attention. These muscles are meant to be used outdoors too because they're more suited to your natural gait cycle.
One of the major advantages of running outdoors is breaking up the guided straight path that a treadmill guides you on. This goes hand in hand with more muscle activation because you're constantly changing your path by taking turns and jumping from sidewalk to sidewalk. Meanwhile, the only way to run on a treadmill is straight. There are no limits to how far your run can go outdoors.
While running on pavement can take a toll on your bones, it can actually be good for them too. Running on a harder surface like asphalt or concrete provides more ground reaction forces that strengthen your bones a bit more than a treadmill. Always keep in mind though, while basic strength building is essential for running, you never want to overdo it. So if the pavement is too much for your knees to handle, the treadmill might be a good route for a few miles.
The all-time top reason why most runners prefer the outdoors is because of the sunshine. The vitamin D that you're exposed to while running outdoors is great for mental and physical health. Breathing in the fresh air and feeling the sun beaming down on you can release so many endorphins. So if you're in the mood for a sweet energy boost and some sunshine, running outdoors is the way to go.
Benefits of Treadmill Running
For those that prefer to take their run into the gym, the treadmill also has some great benefits too. For days when the weather isn't crystal clear or you're in the gym to strength train too, the treadmill is a great way to get your heart rate up and sweat some beads. But the treadmill isn't just for rainy days. It's in a completely controlled environment which may be just what your body prefers or needs. On a treadmill, you can accurately control the pace, incline, and speed. This can be a great motivator and challenge to step up your running game.
Treadmills are a great stimulator to prepare your muscles for the outdoors. The belt moving under your feet which holds you at a steady pace sets you up to maintain pace on your own outside. And because you get to set your pace on a treadmill you can strengthen your muscles and gauge for a regular pace. Simply setting the treadmill to a pace of 7:00 for a mile can help you do the same outside. Treadmill training helps build your VO2 Max, which refers to the maximum volume of oxygen someone can consume per minute of a workout. This means that what you train indoors can actually be done outdoors too, if not better. So if running outdoors is tougher for you, train inside for a bit and build up that VO2 MAx.
Of course, running on treadmills are most beneficial for recovery periods. In most cases, treadmills vs running outdoors are easier for your joints. This is because the cushioned belt is more forgiving than running on hard surfaces. They can be great for interval workouts and sprints too. Treadmills are great trainers but if you're looking to love running, the great outdoors is the preferred place to rack on the steps.
There are pros and cons to both running outdoors vs on a treadmill. So if you're looking to build more leg muscle, enjoy the sunshine, or train for a distance race, running outdoors is best. Or if you're interested in the cardiovascular benefits, seeking recovery time, or preferred to be controlling the pace, then the treadmill is for you. Best of all, if you want it all, try both, there's certainly no harm in changing it up. It's truly just whichever way you prefer to run. In the end, if you're running you'll be happy doing just that.