indoors versus outdoors

Hi Peeps,

Due to injury I have been forced to run on a treadmill now for sometime. The problem is that running indoors seems to be so hard. I don't mean that I run out of steam but it is if the miles are endless. I feel that with the sme effort I can run faster outside.

Do you know why?
(sorry if this topic has been raised before)


  • I think boredom and heat are a lot to do with it Spud.
  • I find running on a treadmill a generally horrible experience. It is the heat and the mindless constant pace and the noise. I find it much harder than running outside
  • I enjoy running outdoors far far more than in the gym...but running on a treadmill is literally miles easier in physical terms for me. Instead of having to propel forwards with impulsion and muscle power, the 'earth' moves - ie the belt goes backwards - so far less effort involved.

    Also the steady state running means I can run to a steady effort in the gym - well almost.

    I was told by one physio that to reduce the chance of injury it was better to run outside where the constant gradient / angle changes help the muscles - whereas another physio told me the opposite....because of the shock absorption in the treadmill belt!
  • Untrue!
    The only difference (other than the pace control, possible mis-calibration and the psychological aspect) is the lack of headwind. The style is the same.

    I go consistently two or three percent quicker on a treadmill (at zero gradient), by the way, based on quite a lot of empirical evidence.
  • Swerve... the road doesn't move outside does it, so there has to be a difference somewhere!

    T/mill running is energy wise 'easier' - due to the belt moving your foot backwards after it's landed - rather than you having push forwards over static ground. Yes the action is the same - but the power you need to generate to go at the same speed is less. Which is why, I guess, you consistently run faster on the treadmill.....

    There's been a recent article on this by Owain Anderson in Peak Performance - but I can't remember where I put it. But that's why most people (not me!) will add upto 3% gradient to the t/mill to introduce the 'effort' effect that's otherwise lost.

  • MinksMinks ✭✭✭
    Personally I think the physical effort of running on a treadmill (even with an incline) is slightly less than running outside - because of factors mentioned like lack of wind resistance and friction.

    However, I think this is outweighed by the extra mental energy needed to run for extended periods on a treadmill.

    I was away for a weekend recently, and not knowing the area, ran 5K on the hotel's treadmill. It seemed to take FOREVER. So boring! Outside you can watch the scenery go past, keep mentally alert watching out for traffic/uneven pavement/potholes etc. Inside there's nothing to look at, even with air-con most gyms smell slightly sweaty, and there's no breeze to cool your face down as you run.

    Whatever the research says, I'd rather run in wet and sub-zero temperatures (and did so throughout the winter) than go anywhere near a treadmill.
  • Well,it's Owain Anderson v Sir Isaac Newton then! I have read a PP article online (probably the same one?), a good one it was too, other than where it quoted the common misconception. Sporting types aren't generally physicists, and where an idea takes hold, it's often not challenged.

    OK, consider this. Imagine a gym on wheels, moving at a steady speed along the road (and taking the air inside with it). there's a hole in the floor to allow you to run on the road as the gym moves. As far as you're concerned, it's exactly the same as running on a treadmill in the gym. You're not touching anything within the gym apart from air, so the only difference between this and road running is the air resistance.

    It comes down to relative motion - if you run one way along the aisle on a train, it's no more difficult than running the other way. And the earth is moving away from the centre of the universe at a huge speed, but we don't get yanked off it into space. Newton's first law!
  • Umm ....- running through 'the hole in the floor of the gym' still means running on a static surface ie the road. It is not the same as running on a t/mill because I would be having to generate the forward motion / impulsion myself.

    On a t/mill all I have to do is get myself sufficiently airborne to swing my leg forward at the right speed to keep myself in the same relative position - ie I don't have to push off with the same force to move forward over the ground..because the 'ground' moves backwards for me - but it requires it's own energy source to do so.

    Therefore, to run at the same speed on the t/mill requires less energy from me, because the t/mill belt is using 'energy' to move backwards. Otherwise don't you think by now we'd all be running on treadmills which don't have a power requirement - but which just work off rollers?

    Out on the roads - the only thing that moves is me (and the passing snails). If I was lifting off and pushing forwards at the same time as the road was moving backwards -more tarmac would pass under my feet for each stride. Dream on.....!
  • Strange this. A lad at work mentioned something about force times distance and stuff but I switched off! I read that a treadmill with a 1% incline takes the same effort as running outside. Surely even though the treadmill is moving below your feet you are still using your energy to push yourself forwards (a la outside) or you'd fall off the back of the treadmill.

    In my experience I run at 12km/h on the treadmills at my gym, mostly on a hill program up to 5% incline for 40 minutes max (it's my lunch hour you see). Anyway I did my first road race last week and did the 10k in 47:04 which is over 12km/h. So I'm faster outside than on the treadmill. And I've used various treadmills at the gym so it can't be the calibration.
  • swerve is right, honest. because the belt is moving backwards, you have to push forwards to stay in the same place (just like the red queen). if you jumped straight up (like running on the spot), you'd end up going backwards relative to the gym - or stationary relative to the treadmill belt - and squashing someone doing sit-ups behind you.
  • Must say that I can run faster outdoors than indoors, it probably psychological but I just can't maintain the same speed on a treadmill as on the track. SS has made a valid point about driving yourself forward when outside, its this drive forward that makes me run faster outside, to maintain the same speed on the treadmill I find I have to maintain a faster leg turnover than I normally do and I bounce more on my toes as well.

    Also unless the treadmill is maintained properly it can become a more harder surface than roads.
  • Got home...Found the article - (phew!) it says.. more or less..

    Q - Elemetary physics tells us that all that counts is the relative velocity of the runner and the surface on which he is running and that whether the 'ground' is staionary or otherwise is irrelevant. Leaving aside the question of wind resistance, the physical equations are the same whether it's the runner or the ground that's moving.....

    A... if you think about it for a moment - you will realise that the treadmill itself and the runner on the treadmill are both moving at the same speed....the speed imparted by the rotation of the earth. The net velocity of the treadmill runner in relation to the overall treadmill is zero. However a treadmill belt - (unless it's not activated) is not moving at the same velocity as the runner. If the belt speed is set to 10mph - for example - any specific point on the treadmill below is moving away from the runner at a velocity of 10mph. That backwards motion is interrupted by the recycling motion of the t/mill belt - but you get my point - the length of the belt and the overall size of the t/mill do not matter, the net difference between the runner and belt will be 10mph.

    When a foot hits the t/mill belt while running, the foot / ankle and shin - being momentarily 'parts' of the belt will move backwards at the same speed as the belt - 10mph. This must be true unless you think of the human body as a rigid rod without segments and which case the centre of mass would also move backwards at the same speed.

    However research indicates that during t/mill running the shin of the support leg is less erect at contact and moves through a greater range of motion, with a faster overall angular velocity, than in normal running. If footstrike averages 180 milliseconds (an average for good quality runners) than the foot could move backwards in relation to the centre of mass by 2.6inches during treadmill footstrike (it will actually be a little less than this since the centre of mass and upper body will tend to be dragged along at least a little).

    This makes sense ....provided you don't stop to think about it!
  • And here - shamelessly copied from the PP web site - is the source article which led to the question... I'll have to do this in several's long

    When an athlete runs on the track, on roads or on firm ground, their legs create propulsive forces which accelerate their centre of mass and drive it forward. The athlete's centre of mass is decelerated during each recovery (early-stance) phase of the gait cycle, only to be accelerated forwards again as propulsive forces are produced by the stance leg. As they continue to run, centre of mass is accelerated and decelerated over and over again as it moves steadily forwards.

    When the same athlete runs on a treadmill, centre of mass is static (at least in the forwards-backwards plane). There is no forward progress; instead, the running surface 'disappears' behind the athlete. In fact, the treadmill belt moves the athlete's legs and feet under and behind her centre of mass and, to preserve stability, their key task is to move the support leg back in front of the centre of mass in time for the impact with the treadmill belt. The key function of the leg muscles during treadmill running is not to produce propulsive forces but to re-position the legs in such a way as to keep the centre of mass stable.

    Because of these major and fundamental differences, some experts have argued that treadmill training is unspecific to 'real running' and should be avoided by athletes who want to improve their running abilities on the ground. The neuromuscular patterns involved in treadmill running are so different from road, track or cross-country running, they argue, that improvements in economy and efficiency are impossible. Some go so far as to contend that treadmill training may actually impair running economy on regular surfaces.

    On the other hand, treadmill advocates cite two key advantages of treadmill training: with treadmills, they argue, it is possible to perform outstanding 'hill' workouts by setting the treadmill inclination at challenging levels; treadmill athletes can also set training paces with great precision, enhancing their ability to carry out very specific training. They can do ample amounts of work at a goal race pace, for example, without ever having to worry about whether they are straying from the desired velocity.

    Critics of treadmill training produce the counter-argument that treadmill running is not really very specific. For one thing, the weight and forces placed on the treadmill belt with each footstrike cause many belts to slow down briefly with every step(1). In addition, a discrete pace on a treadmill is not the same, in terms of overall physiological effort, as the same pace on firm ground; for example, six-minute miling pace on a treadmill usually produces lower heart and oxygen consumption rates than same-pace running on the track, cross-country course or soccer field. The lower cost of treadmill running is definitely attributable to lack of wind resistance; it may also reflect the biomechanical and kinematic differences between treadmill and 'normal' running.
  • There is little doubt that treadmill training is better for fitness than a completely sedentary lifestyle, and there is no question that non-competitive joggers can improve their overall fitness on a treadmill. However, for the reasons given above, it is logical for competitive athletes to be concerned about whether they can actually use treadmill work to boost their performances. Is treadmill running too different from the real thing to have any impact on race times? What does the scientific literature have to say?

    WELL - if you really really want to know - read the article - it's a nightmare cutting and pasting it!

    Can't do fancy links but its here
  • What a discussion!!!

    I now think that what happens in my case is that I train specifically to run outside so treadmill running, being foreign to my way of moving ( different forces acting on the body etc.) slows me down.

    thank you everyone!
  • Awww Spud - going back to your original ? I think Fat Face had it right - the pschycological (sp) factor comes into it big style

    I mean - your brain is probably subconsciously telling you 'You're running on the spot mate - this is pointless!'

    But it isn't - and if it keeps you fit when injured then great - Keep on Running ...and cross training etc

  • Awww Spud - going back to your original ? I think Fat Face had it right - the pschycological (sp) factor comes into it big style

    I mean - your brain is probably subconsciously telling you 'You're running on the spot mate - this is pointless!'

    But it isn't - and if it keeps you fit when injured then great - Keep on Running ...and cross training etc

    Good Luck with your recovery

  • SS -

    - thanks for finding that article - it confirms my experience that for a given effort, I can run faster outdoors, as more of the energy from each step is transformed into forward motion on the road surface -

    - but treadmills are great for intervals, hillwork and merciful on the legs if you don't have access to soft ground for running.

  • SS, I am having problems accessing the site.

    "You have reached the PicoSearch Search Engine hosting service. You must contact the webmaster for the site that you were trying to search. Their HTML code has not properly accessed any PicoSearch account in our files. Thank you."

    Can you help?

  • Awww Spud - try
    then go to the LHSide, scroll down - Search Library - enter treadmill and it's the first article that comes up

    LynneW - actually - I think the article is saying exactly the opposite!

    "Arguably the most important finding in this study was the sheer magnitude of the difference in cost (36%) between treadmill and track sprinting. As Frishberg pointed out, air resistance alone could not entirely account for this huge disparity, suggesting that biomechanical and kinematic differences must be large enough to contribute to the relative 'cheapness' of treadmill running. Another key result was that, when given the opportunity, the sprinters could exceed their maximal overground running velocities by over
    1-2m/sec. A jump of 2m/sec, from 8.5m/sec on the track to 10.5 on the treadmill, would improve 100m performance from 11.76 to 9.5 seconds. In other words, average university runners would be capable of moving along at world-record pace over 100 metres on the treadmill - training which should be beneficial for the improvement of max running speed. "

    I've been awake for ages though - trying to work out why some people seem to find the t/mill easier than road running - and some people are the other way round

    I have virtually no 'lift off the ground' when I run, confirmed by video gait analysis both on a t/mill and on a playing field. So my foot contact with the t/mill is probably far longer than more efficient runners who can propel themselves properly and get those photo's of themselves with both feet off the ground. I've got a sneaky feeling that people who find the t/mill harder than running outside are more biomechanically efficient - albeit that it's a completely different action.

  • Very interesting reading this thread.

    There was a time when I used to do quite a lot of TM running when I first started.

    I didn't find it any harder than outdoor running then, in fact I think I found it easier. However, now that all my running is done outdoors apart from the occasional TM run when at the gym I find it harder to stay motivated on the TM.

    It's interesting to note though that I did my fastest ever mile on a TM, something like 5.57 which I've never done on the road. I've never broke 6 mins since!
  • I'm still not having it, SS!
    I almost mailed PP about that article - perhaps I should have done.

    For example, this paragraph, upon which most of the arguments are based, is plainly wrong.

    "When the same athlete runs on a treadmill, centre of mass is static (at least in the forwards-backwards plane). There is no forward progress; instead, the running surface 'disappears' behind the athlete. In fact, the treadmill belt moves the athlete's legs and feet under and behind her centre of mass and, to preserve stability, their key task is to move the support leg back in front of the centre of mass in time for the impact with the treadmill belt. The key function of the leg muscles during treadmill running is not to produce propulsive forces but to re-position the legs in such a way as to keep the centre of mass stable."

    On a treadmill, the runner's centre of mass is NOT stable "in the forwards-backwards plane" (I think plane must mean direction here - spot the non-science!). The centre of mass oscillates backward and forward. On the road, the centre of mass does not move with a constant velocity, it lurches - the velocity oscillates. In the same way, when you're on a treadmill, the velocity oscillates in exactly the same way, except that there's a constant offset subtracted, so, relative to the gym, the runner's centre of mass moves back and forth. So, yes, to keep the centre of mass precisely stable, the gait would have to change. But this DOESN'T HAPPEN! When an article writes this kind of thing as gospel, surely you've got to doubt the whole lot? Too many sports scientists are not scientists at all, and this is an example of it.

    The point is well and truly missed. It's all about relative motion. If you didn't propel yourself forward on a treadmill, you would fall off the back. If you don't believe me, try it!! ;-)
  • I don't consider myself biomechanically sound at all, but I positively hate treadmill running, am not comfortable with it and only do it when there is absolutely no chance of running outside. Seems to be so much more difficult to run inside - if the weather is simply impossible (ice, thunderstorms) I'd rather go to the pool.
  • I prefer the tready, cos im used to gyms, and feel more of a blob outside(my own problem, i know)

    Im much much slower on the tready
  • Swerve...

    imagine you were out running on the flat road at a steady 6mph and drew level with a huge oak tree. The road then starts moving backwards at 6mph and - ignoring what I think are obvious biomechanical changes which would result - pretend and its a huge pretence - that you are able to keep running in exactly the same style with exactly the same propulsive forces at exactly the same velocity as before
    Would you

    a) keep level with the oak tree
    b) draw in front of it -
    c) slowly lose ground to it ?

    Answer is c)

    Why ?

    Because the ground has now started moving backwards when your foot is on it - taking you with it for the duration of your foot's contact - and if you are maintaining EXACTLY the same action / speed and forces as before it started moving then you will fall behind the oak tree and eventually end up where you started.

  • Wow.... I wonder if that's what happens every time I go out for a run...and I've never noticed? It would explain so much!
  • Just wondered how this thread ended - perhaps I shouldn't have! Anyway, I'm bored, so here goes.....

    If the road suddenly started moving, it would cause you to accelerate backwards. Assuming it didn't fling you to the asphalt (and thence to casualty), you would accelerate (backwards) until you had reached your steady speed of 6mph relative to the road. You would lose a certain distance relative to the tree, but thereafter you would maintain your position relative to the tree.

    Relative motion - that's what it's all about. Ask Einstein! He'll tell you that the laws of physics are invariant in any non-accelerating frame of reference. Which all leads to that time-space stuff, but that's not important. That's why you don't feel like you are being pulled towards the back of a train moving at a constant velocity. That's why you don't feel any different running on a treadmill in a fast-moving spaceship than you would on one in a gym - remember, the earth is moving away from the centre of the universe at a stupendous speed.

    So consider what would happen if your treadmill were moving forward at the same speed as the belt speed. The belt would be stationary relative to the road, and running on the belt would be exactly the same as running on the road. Yet your gait cannot be modified by the forward motion - you are not being subjected to any different force - see the previous paragraph.

    Have I proved my point? ;-)
  • Phewww!
  • Swerve...No !

    You aren't running at 6mph - you'd be running at 6mph less (the distance travelled whilst you're in contact with the belt, in mph) - unless you were propelling yourself forward with each stride with even more power than when you were running at 6mph on the non-moving road - which wasn't one of the assumptions

    I've lost the will to live on this one!
  • Me too, but before I die..... ;-)

    One treadmill moves at 6mph, with its belt set to 6mph.
    Another treadmill moves at 6mph, but has had its belt mechanism removed - the runner runs on the road below where the belt should be.

    Would a runner experience a difference between the two?


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