Running outside vs inside

Outdoor vs. Treadmill Running

 It has been shown through many scientific studies that the human body adapts to training in a specific manner. The body responds in the obvious ways such as when training faster you can race faster, train long and slow and you increase your endurance.   It also adapts to things like the surface that you run on, such as the hardness of the surfaces, how level the surface is, elevation, resistance and incline.

Are there benefits to running on a treadmill when you are training for a road race?

Some of the treadmills advantages are hard to overlook.

  • It is easy to know that you are on pace and how far you have gone.   If you are training for a specific race and are following a well-designed training program then this information lets you know how your training is progressing.
  • Weather conditions don’t affect your workouts. You can safely run inside while there is a snowstorm outside or if it is 30 degrees Celsius with high humidity.
  • Interval training becomes more precise as you control your pace without worrying about going out too fast and ending up doing those last few repeats at a slower than optimal pace.
  • Treadmill’s with an adjustable incline allows you to get a hill workout in without having to travel across the city.
  • A good quality treadmill with a forgiving surface area can give you a break from running on hard surfaces such as asphalt roads and also gives you a safe, smooth footing.   You can find a thorough review of many treadmills along with tips for using them properly at the following website:    Note that this is a site out of the U.S.A. in case you are comparing the pricing and all models may not be available in Canada.

Important benefits to training outside.

  • The adjustments the body makes when running outside on different surfaces and varying conditions helps to strengthen the smaller muscle groups that support the large ones which power the body in motion.
  • The variation in surfaces and terrain also train and improve the body’s perception of movement and spatial orientation (proprioception) which leads to better balance and running efficiency.
  • Your body learns to find the efficient motions and body position to run in windy conditions in the same way your body adjusts to efficiently run hills. This includes the wind resistance that the body naturally creates which increases as you increase your speed.   This makes the workout tougher than on a treadmill where there is no air motion since you are in essence running on the spot.
  • Most people running on a treadmill have some slightly different, less efficient biomechanical movements than when running outside. These may be due to a less stable surface of the moving treadmill belt than what the body has when in contact with the ground.   The things that seem most affected by being on a treadmill are stride length, amount of time spent on the support leg and the angle the upper body is held at.

The best recommendation for runners is to do some training on the surface that you plan to race on but take advantage of a variety of surfaces. This is especially important for long distance runners who should do a lot of their training on softer surfaces such as grass, dirt or gravel trails to decrease the impact forces that come with roads and sidewalks.

It is the same concept as cross training on a more running specific level. Exposing your body to a variety of surfaces and conditions makes it more adaptable and less prone to injury. Some of you are probably already doing this with running trails in the fall (cross-country), on the track over winter (track & field) and on the streets in the summer (road racing). Don’t be afraid to throw in some other training surfaces as well such as on a treadmill, running in the pool, on snow or on grass.

When trying out a new surface to run on the rule is the same as with all training, which is increase speed and distance gradually to prevent injuries.

Categories: Uncategorized

Author: Ken Friesen

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