Treadmill vs Outdoors – Which is the Best Way to Run?

Cats vs dogs. Tea vs coffee. Treadmill vs outdoors. The world is divided, compromise is weak, misinformation is rife. So, let’s settle it once and for all… which is better, running on a treadmill or outside?

To set the scene, treadmills have been getting a bad rep for a while, with many declaring they cause injury. However, treadmills make some weak at the knees, as others love the escape from temperamental weather. Conversely, how good is the ‘great outdoors’? And can one decisively choose a winner?

Treadmills

No one can deny that there is a certain joy to be had when blissfully running in the air-conditioned gym, knowing others are battling the elements outside. Being in the controlled climate of the gym has its perks; no rain, no wind, no sun, and no unpredictable changes. Granted, the air con isn’t always working, and the temperature sometimes drops into polar-like conditions, but for the most part, you feel safe in the fact you can maintain a regular temperature.

One cannot overlook the benefits of the modern treadmill either. Who can get bored when you have access to TV, social media, running simulations, personalised plans, and music all from a machine? Cardio can be monotonous, especially when done on the spot, hence the less-than-affectionate nickname ‘dreadmill’. Yes, some treadmills lack TVs. Yes, some treadmills face a concrete wall. Yes, treadmills can get boring. But maybe you aren’t making the most of them! As a training tool, treadmills offer users the chance to control their speed exactly and make incline changes to suit their running needs.

The elephant in the room requires mentioning, the dreaded treadmill injuries everyone fears.

Recently it seems the tide of hate is relinquishing, and many are suggesting treadmills are good for reducing the impact on joints as the cushioned belt is softer than the outdoor ground. Running on a treadmill will give you cardiovascular benefits as well as reduce impact relative to outdoors. It seems the popular myth that treadmills are bad for you is being debunked.

The great outdoors

On a glorious sunny day, you will likely see runners out in force, seemingly absorbing as much vitamin D as humanly possible (while it lasts). There is something satisfying in knowing you went running on a lovely day instead of spending it lazing in the garden sipping Pimms. There must be something even more satisfying knowing you went running in bad weather when no one else seems brave enough.

Those determined to not let the elements get in their way are admirable. Perhaps outdoor runners love nature. Perhaps they crave fresh air. Or perhaps they just really hate being locked inside on treadmills. Either way, outdoor runners are to be respected.

There is, however, a downside to being the envy of the running world; running outside on harder ground can increase the impact on joints. But every cloud has a silver lining! The increased impact may help reinforce your bones, provided you have maintained leg strength. Also, running outside isn’t a simple linear jog, you have to be prepared to dodge the odd tree root/pothole/rogue dog, which helps make sure you maximise muscle activation. If you can overcome the weather and can keep your wits about you, then outdoor running is for you.

Summary

As long as runners are educated and informed of potential risks, then they should do whatever they like. Adapt the running method according to whatever suits you and your needs, or what suits the weather. Neither running method is bad for you, running is good for you!

Why not try both methods when completing your Race at Your Pace challenge? Let us know which you preferred; the jury is still out on this one.