Treadmill vs outside



  • I started off running on a treadmill and, like you, had a *big* shock when I started running outdoors. Having said that, once I got used to running outside I've really never looked back.

    Its easier in lots of ways to ignore the GPS and run at a pace thats comfortable. You know your legs can move at pace from the treadmill work, so you'll easily get that back outside.

    As for the people looking at you oddly, you stop noticing them after a while. Now I just remember that I can do something that they evidently can't, otherwise it wouldn't be odd enough to them to stare!
  • waycatwaycat ✭✭✭
    I have ran outdoors before, but it was many many years ago, and was short lived.
    I have been at my gym for about 10 years now, but have only recently started running seriously, due to concerns about joint damage - those concerns were soon put to bed after a "chat" with some people on these forums!

    I really enjoy my treadmill running and find that I always go on for longer than I had originally planned to. For example, this morning I had planned to to about 6 km, but stayed on until I had done 9 km, and felt really good afterwards.

    I always use a hill program, so as to try and emenate, to an extent, outdoor running, but I realise there's only so much you can do with a machine.

    I agree with other comments that the treadmill forces you to keep your pace and for me that is important while I am trying to increase my time and distance.

    I do want to venture outdoors again before soo long, but at the moment I don't quite feel ready.
  • I think it's best not to get too hung up on the relationship of your speed on the T/M to your speed outside; just use it to measure progress in comparison with previous T/M runs. By way of example, I have found that, on a newly calibrated T/M, I was struggling to run 800m repetitions at what was shown as the speed I had recently done over 5K XC at the English XC Relays.

    I find the T/M useful for interval sessions, and got the quickest I have been (in racing terms)on the basis of T/M interval sessions. I also sometimes use the 'hill' or 'random' programmes, just to do something a bit different for fun. Where I find it harder to use is on slower runs, those do take some grinding out. I wouldn't do those on the T/M unless I had to.

    I think there is a bit of a risk in running regularly at 1.5 or 2.0 incline. Personally I find that 1.0 doesn't make much difference, but can feel by 1.5 and certainly by 2.0 that it is changing my running style.

    The other thing about T/Ms in gyms, you can feel a bit of a freak doing a speed session, as sweat flies off you and your legs pound away while everyone else is running (or whatever) well within themselves.
  • I have a treadmill in my shed and also I have used the local gym. I agree that they are sooooo boring and only use mine for interval work ( not very often but they do help)
    You cannot beat the great outdoors and I find it a lot easier, take out the science and you and your body adapts to the conditions. Be it sunshine, windy and raining, uphill or downhill it's a great feeling.
    A point of interest. Is there a world record for running on a treadmill?
  • Hi,

    I run quicker on a treadmill, but can't run for as long. Boredom sets in very easily for me, and I always seem to overheat indoors. I think the main thing for me is that it is fairly easy to stop running when bored whether on a treadmill or in the open air, the only difference being that after any distance - 3 miles etc - I can just step off the treadmill, but still have to get home in the open air, more of an incentive to keep going!!
  • Rosey666,
    Yes there are records for running on a treadmill, and unless it has been broken recently an Irish gentleman named Tony Mangan holds some of them - he actually did one of the record runs at the Dublin marathon EXPO a few years back, you could see him and chat to him when you picked up your race number and chip. I think they do it based on the most mileage run on a treadmill in 24 hours / 48 hours etc.
    He ran the Dublin marathon then - as a 'cool down'!!
    I wish everyone a good run this weekend, be it on a treadmill or out in the great outdoors.
  • As with JFB, I've been running my fastest and nabbing PBs at all distances since starting to use my treadie, not quite 2yrs ago when I got my place in my first FLM. I find it invaluable for interval/speed work as I know I wouldn't hold the pace on my own. I need that rolling floor to keep my going the distance/speed. But for running satisfaction you cant beat the great outdooes and a good scenic route to help the miles fly by.
    Funny though, pre-t/m I used to be a non-sweating female, I could run a half-mara and still have dry feet and gear. Now I could wring my gear out and the sweat flows from everywhere. Totally weird (and most unladylike!!) but happily there don't seem to be any ill effects - I just have to drink more.
    Enjoy the forecasted sunny weekend!
  • Swerve said "Other than psychological effects, the only physical difference between the outside world and the treadmill is in wind resistance...."

    Of course this is true for an ideal treadmill, but the reality is that:
    1. Treadmill calibration varies - the reported speed may not match actual belt speed.
    2. The treadmill may not be level, it may slope up or down slightly at a nominal 0% inclination.
    3. Air resistance is an effect that will increase at higher speeds.
    4. Treadmills are usually under-powered and will decelerate on heel-strike and accelerate on toe-off, thus making actual running speed slower than average belt speed.
    5. Holding on to the treadmill (e.g. to change speed, take a drink) effectively pulls the runner along, potentially reducing fatigue.

    These factors will vary from treadmill to treadmill and runner to runner, which may well explain the varying responses to the question about whether treadmill running is easier or harder than road running. My approach is to stick to one treadmill in the gym and calibrate to speeds in the real world using heart-rate.
  • I started running on treadmills, I don't really understand the "boredom" issue as my mind is always doing something. Getting too hot is the only issue for me.
    But that's not really what I wanted to talk about, what I wanted opinions on is one of the excellent set of fitness tests on Life Fitness treadmills called the "Gerkin Protocol" - information is scarce but it claims to estimate your VO2, I do it about once a month and was interested in whether anyone else has tried it and what their experiences are in terms of how closely your score seems to match actual performances in races.
    If anyone asks me about getting into running I always advise them to start with the US Army, Navy and Marine tests on a Life Fitness treadmill and try to beat your previous score each time. Needless to say nobody pays the slightest attention but for me that was an incredibly good method of goal-setting and measurable improvement.

    Regarding the treadmill v outside pace, as an experiment I did the 2 Mile US Army test in 11:45 on the treadmill and two days later in the Self-Transcendence 2 Mile race in Cardiff ran a lot harder to do 12:57. I must admit I don't buy the "Treadmill accuracy" issue - the belt is a known length, it would take considerable ingenuity for an engineer to not be able to translate this into speed and distance pretty accurately it seems to me.
  • I must say, first of all, that what I am about to say is not meant to be a criticism of gym, or indeed, to try to make gym sound useless in anyway, I can only offer what I know and hopefully you might find some of it entertaining if nothing more.

    I am never one to use gym, it works wonders for some of my friends, and it's wonderful that people find them useful and that it helps people, but I already work indoor in an office, and my dance training takes place in studios, so when it comes to my running, it absolutely has to be outside. I enjoy exploring the areas around me, along the river into westend, be it sunny or overcast or rainy, it is the moment of feeling totally at one with the element, and to appreciate, just how very vast the world is, and how things that might be stressing you out a few minutes ago, really don't matter, nobody died, and you're still there, still healthy, still running. Sometimes when I really run hard and get my heartbeat right up, it can feel as if the entire air around me is pulsating to my heartbeat, and there is great comfort to be taken in that.

    I have taken part and completed the London Marathon in 1005, several 10k races, both large scale organisations or just smaller, quieter races, with people there for all sorts of reasons, a wonderful half marathon where I made friends with 2 lovely ladies, with one of whom I ended up running the whole way side by side. She kept my pace up on the flats and I pushed her hard when it came to inclines, and we were both pleasantly surprised by our time. I have also entered the Budapest Marathon taking place on the 30th September this year.

    There is certainly something to be said for the benefits of a gym, almost all my friends who are healthy conscious use them at some point to great effect, but each to their own, and for me, it's the roads, the parks, the other runners and their friendly, smiling acknowledgement.

    Carry on running friends!!
  • Well said G Ker

    It's the open air for me.
  • I go to the gym and never speak to anyone. I dunno why, people just seem very focused on what they are doing.

    Treadmill is very good for short intense intervals. Did some tonight and it was good. Our gym also has tellies on the treadmill and earphone jacks so you can get fit and watch telly at the same time.
  • That sounds great JB I'm joining a gym, sod this outdoor running.
  • Sorry to spoil this indoor versus outdoor thing but it strikes me as a bit futile to worry about which is "better", I do both - the important thing is the running.
    As for the "gym", running does very little for upper body muscles, they are pretty useful things to develop especially in the light of this study
  • Treadmill v's Outdoor Running!?
    The treadmill is brilliant for speed and pace work as the belt dictates your running pace whereas outside you dictate your own pace. Maybe that's why you run faster? But i have found that the treadmill belt flicks your legs back allowing you to go faster. Another reason why people can go faster on treadmills is that while your feet are not in contact with the belt, distance is still elapsing. Causing some people to developing a jog with lots of uplift (bouncing) rather than forward momentum.
    Another con to treadmill running is the fact that it wont increase multi directional strength of your ankle joints as it is a controlled environment on a constant flat surface. Which could lead to weaker ankles compared to someone who runs outdoors as their anlkles will be stressed over a multitude of terrain and joint angles. My advice would be to do your base/foundation training outdoors 2 big runs a week and compliment it with some fast work on the treadmill also put in some plyometrics and running specific leg strength work which will improve speed, power and joint strength.
  • When you run outside, distance also elapses while your feet are not on the ground => there is no magic difference between speed on the treadmill and speed outside. Basic mechanics.
    (aside from the wind resistance factor, which makes a small difference as others have pointed out)
  • Treadmills ought to named Deadmills. But they do have their uses. They're usfull for running at a speed greater than you're capable of on the road, especially in windy conditions - so increasing leg speed. I could do 5k about 90s quicker on the mill. Also, they're good for hill reps, but you really need two adjacent mills for this in order to replicate the recovery jog - if your gym don't mind this (off peak is usually best and safer for other gym usuers). If your going to do a "road run" and want to replicate running on the road, then put the mill on a 1 - 1 & 1/2 incline to simulate a flat road with a slight wind.
  • Yes, different things work for different people, and they all have their uses. I did use to use treadmill when I was simply too embarrassed to be seen outside, I was rather overweight in my teens (oops giving my age away...) and to call it running really was rather an understatement, it was more like a shuffle really. I shuffled round the track with my very healthy-conscious father on my school holidays home, then by the time we got to upper fifth at school, we were given the access to the school gym to use all those apparatus, that was when I really just stay on the treadmill for no less than an hour (everyone else always seemed to have something better to do) and gradually, I got my confidence back and got back to my dancing and picked up running again, this time outdoors, so though I much prefer outdoors, I have used treadmill and they have helped me tremendously.
  • I've just been reading a couple of the threads regarding treadmill Vs outdoors and i have to say - i've always preferred outdoors. I can't seem to grasp looking straight ahead on the treadmill when i'm running and so i look at the LCD display on the machine instead. However, this is like clock watching so makes the time go really slow. In addition, i get paranoid that i'm going to stumble or trip on the treadmill as I feel forced to run at a set pace and i worry that the machine will send me flying across the gym! For this reason, i struggle to run 20 minutes on the treadmill - and yet i can run and run and run outdoors! An average outdoor run is usually between 5-10km without any problems (i ran a half marathon last year in sub 2 hours). Weird isn't it - perhaps my treadmill technique needs some work?
  • I don't like running on a treadmill either.  In fact, I can't...I lose my balance and get dizzy. It's very embarassing. image' />   I have a disease that causes me to have virtigo and it's really bad on the treadie.  Besides, I'm too ADHD for the indoors....I need a variety of scenery. image' />
  • Running on a treadmill can never replicate the conditions you will find in races as the incline and surface doesn't change in the same way. Also there will never be a corner to turn and this means that your muscles used for supporting you during such are not strengthened sufficiently.  As an earlier post mentioned, the treadmill is moving and you are simply keeping up with it and not fully propelling yourself as you would be during normal running.

    They are a useful aid to fitness but they have a limited ability to improve your real running ability. (in my opinion!)

  • I'm sure one of the top womens marathonners won London after almost exclusively running on treadmills.

    If it was a choice of tready or no running - I'd do the tready, but clearly a bit of both would be better than just indoor running. Fresh air ! Scenery ! Bunny Rabbits !

  • Can we please stop saying that there is a mechanical difference between a treadmill and outside running.  This is a commonly held but incorrect viewpoint.  Apart from air-resistance and other subtle mechanical factors (see my earlier post), there is NO DIFFERENCE between the two.  Treadmills do not 'pull your legs back' any more than the ground does.  Any differences in running action are small and there is clearly a very large cross-over of the physiological effects of training between treadmills and outside running. 
  • Hi, i'm new to this site, but find it really helpful.  I use to do most of my running in winter on a treadmill and run outside in the summer, and I agree,  it is much harder running outside than on a treadmill.  I felt that the time on the treadmill had been wasted as when I started running outside, it felt like I had never run before in my life.  Now I have ditched the treadmill, bought proper all weather running gear and run outside whatever the weather. After a few weeks of persevering, road running comes like second nature now, I am running between 7 and 12 miles on training days and finding it comfortable.  You just have to grit you teeth, listen to your body and don't push yourself too hard and it will all come together.image' />

  • Wolfy

    Thank g*d for another sane person on the subject of treadmill running.  I have tried for years to counter the prevailing theory that treadmill running is easier because the treadmill is doing the work for you as the belt is going backwards of its own volition and so you don't have to push yourself forward.

    I have two favoutite analogies.  One is whether you can run from the front to the back of a train carriage at around 30-90 mph quicker that it would take you to run from the back to the front.  After all the floor of the train is moving very rapidly in one direction and you are only moving relative to the floor.

    The other which is more extreme is the question of whether the world record for the 100 metres is always set running east to west on the equator when you have to ground moving at severall hundred/thousand miles per hour under your feet and thau helping you  more than considerably.

    All said I find treadmill running much harder than running outside as the need to maintain a constant speed at all times stops one easing back for hills or merely to allow ones breathing to recover etc or to stumble to on side or the other as occasionally occurs in real life.


  • I read you need to add 15 seconds to each mile you do on the treadmill to equal your outside speed
  • Wolfy, Burnt Out, I've been saying the same on a few threads recently too! image' /> Thankyou.

     Paul F, 15 secs a mile sounds about right as a rule of thumb to account for wind resistance. That's roughly equivalent to 0.5 kph or an incline of 1%, according to various sources.

  • I read that in "running is easy" by Bruce Tulloh, which is about 4 or 5 years old now. I tend to work by heart rate or Perceived Exertion on the treadmill anyway.
  • Funny isn't it.  If you think the treadmill is "doing all the work for you", why not stop doing the work yourself and see how quickly you shoot off the back and crash into the gym bunny reading Hello magazine on the Concept II behind you.  image' />
  • Burnt Out,

    Good luck!  Galileo proved the equivalence of motion in non-accelerating frames of reference in a famous thought-experiment several hundred years ago (search Wikipedia for ‘Galileo's ship’).  The fact that the same misconceptions about treadmill walking/running are still held shows that these concepts are probably counter-intuitive for a lot of people. 

    You are right in trying to come-up with an analogy that is better understood - I think one of the issues is that the belt surface is not perceived as a constant velocity reference, possibly because it is so small and vision tells us we are stationary.  My favourite analogies include increasing the belt size to that of large airport moving-walkways or bigger.  I’ve also tried asking what would happen if you were running at 10 mph on a treadmill, which was itself on the back of a lorry driving at 10mph; in this case the treadmill belt would be stationary relative to the ground, and you would be running at 10 mph overground.  If people understand this to be equivalent to overground running, then they should appreciate that there will be no difference if the lorry moves at a different (constant) speed, or is stationary.

    As to the ACTUAL differences between treadmills and overground running (beyond air resistance), in some recent experiments we showed that treadmill belts can decelerate by 10% or more on foot contact – this reduces the effective speed of the treadmill by the same amount, and the fact that the treadmill accelerates to maintain its average speed when the foot is in the air has no bearing on the treadmill user.  These decelerations vary greatly from treadmill to treadmill, so my advice is to stick to the same treadmill, and treat the indicated speed as being a rough approximation to outdoor speeds.

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