Hit the pavement or run the Dreadmill?

To run on a treadmill or run outside? The more you run, the more likely you are to run into questions. It’s our nature. We look for shortcuts, we want to become more efficient, we seek the fastest route to our goals. It’s normal, and effective, to look to more experienced athletes for answers. What are 5k run training tips for beginners? What about 10k run training tips for near beginners? You get it. Let’s return to the question of the day: treadmill vs outdoor running. Is treadmill running best for beginners? Or should you run outside? Here are eight things to consider before hopping on the treadmill or running outside for beginners:

  • Running outside takes more energy (weight loss runners rejoice!)  
  • Injuries
  • Knees
  • Hamstrings, quads, and Achilles tendons
  • Weather
  • Incline training tip: anything is possible on a treadmill
  • Convenience and motivation
  • Boredom and monotony

One of the best running tips beginners can hear is that nothing will prepare you for running outdoors, but running outdoors. This isn’t anything new. In 1970, a physiology researcher by the name of L.G Pugh sought to answer, “what takes more energy, running on a treadmill or track?” His findings might surprise you. It turns out we burn 8 percent more energy running on a track compared to a treadmill. If you’re running interval training, those sprints will cost you 16% more energy outdoors than on a treadmill (remember this when running interval training).

Why is this? Two words: wind resistance. So, if you are training for a 5k or a 10k or a 100k, remember those distances will be more difficult off the treadmill. If you came here looking for running tips to lose weight, remember you’ll burn more calories outside!

There’s nothing worse than missing out on everything that makes running fun. Hopefully you will never experience an injury, and by following a balanced running training schedule you won’t have to. Outdoor running has the risk of potholes, curbs, uneven trails, and other obstacles that might lead to a strain or other injury. Treadmills allow for an even stride and remove the possibility of many injuries. However, there are specific injury risks to consider when running both outdoors and on treadmills. Knowing these risks can help prevent running injuries. Beginner women runners should be particularly aware of the risks of outdoor running as cross-country running programs highlight the risks to women runners.  We’ll cover these in the next sections.

Treadmills allow for less impact on your joints. While not many races are run on treadmills, they can be useful in helping you stay in one piece until the big day. Along with upgrading your running shoes, doing some of your training on a treadmill can help prevent injuries. Treadmills can be your friend when recovering from an injury, too. Runners with a history of knee problems can benefit from time on a treadmill. If your one of the many runners over fifty (the fastest growing marathon running demographic is women runners over fifty) this is something to think about!

Running on a treadmill might be better for your knees, but it’s not better for your hamstrings, quads or Achilles tendons. A great article on triathlete.com sums up the academic research on the subject. When you run on a treadmill your body is acting on a “stretch” reflex that can overstretch your hamstrings and neglect your quadriceps. This motion can also increase your risk for Achilles tendons injuries, especially for runners used to outdoor conditions. To prevent injuries, don’t over rely on treadmills and add variety to your running training schedule.

This one is obvious. Don’t let rain, snow, or high temperatures get in your way. Consider interval training on a treadmill when things don’t look so nice outside. Or just find a running destination that’s nice all year long. Heat can be another issue for runners. In particular, running programs for pregnant women should be especially concerned with high temperatures.

To simulate running outside, a 1% grade is the best on a treadmill. If you’re new to running, you should know that hills help you build muscle. Our tip for treadmill running beginners who want to gain muscle or lose weight is to slow down your running pace and spend some time on an incline between 5 to 7 percent. It’s a good way to work alternative muscles and burn more calories. Running inclines on a treadmill can make flat trails seem easier.

What motivates us to run is personal. Managing running training schedules can be difficult, especially for beginners. Investing in a treadmill for your home can help make meeting your goals in the shortest amount of time. A personal treadmill makes a 5k run with kids at home much easier. The convenience of a treadmill is that you can run rain or shine. The most important step in 5k run training for beginners is just to make or follow a running program for beginners and keep making time to run. A personal treadmill means one less excuse to execute your running plan.

As I’ve said before, one of the best features of structured running training and running plans is that they break up the routine. Think of a treadmill as a break from outdoor running, and outdoor running as a break from the treadmill. If you get bored on the treadmill, why not run to a movie, music video, or TED talk? Running on a treadmill allows you time to catch up on shows or movies as you run. On the other hand, running outdoors can lead you to new places, and allow you a new perspective on your surroundings. To include variety in your routine is one of the best running tips for beginners.

Have you decided where your next run will take place? These eight tips will help you avoid injuries, break up boring routines, and have you running smoother. Do you have any tips or stories to share about running on a treadmill vs. running outside? Leave a comment!

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