Differences Between Running on a Treadmill and Running On the Road. Which Is Better and Why

Differences Between Running on a Treadmill and Running On the Road. Which Is Better and Why

Do you know the differences between running on a treadmill and on the road? Which is better and why

One thing for sure is that, whether on a treadmill or on the road, running is one of the best activities we can do for our health and weight control.

Starting to Run

If you’ve finally decided to get in shape you’ll know that it’s going to have a big impact on your life, and, of course, for the better. It’s a relatively ‘easy’ activity to take up, with only two things that need to be considered: sportswear (including appropriate shoes) and timing (on waking up, before eating, after work…).

Starting to run

Tips for picking your running shoes

Benefits of Running

Aerobic activity is a must for guaranteeing cardiovascular health

Even if your training is focussed on strength exercises, I don’t think you should ever skip over sports. And we explain why here.

Among the relevant benefits running brings are:
  • It improves heart health, reducing blood pressure as arteries and capillary vessels can expand and contract more effectively (increases their elasticity)
  • It increases the anaerobic threshold, as long as we direct the training to this function, so that our VO2 MAX increases (how effective we are using oxygen, and the higher the threshold, the better the performance)
  • Helps with weight loss, being an aerobic activity, which is mainly supported by energy coming from stored fatty acids
  • Releases endorphins and improves mood
  • It can contribute to improved the recovery (active recovery), accelerating the excretion of waste products generated by more intense activities in previous sessions (for this we can run about 30-35min at a low cardiac intensity, less than 70%)

Running for the Advanced

As you progress with running, the level you demand of yourself will increase too, and you’ll start looking for new training strategies, or, if you’re able to, above all mentally, with correct planning and preparation, you’ll start thinking about running a race, like your first half marathon (and later on, when you gain experience, you’ll be able to set yourself even greater challenges still…).

Benefits running

Running outside gives you the option of sharing the “experience”

Is Running on a Treadmill the Same as Running Outside?

There are quite a few differences, despite them being the same activity, with a number of different factors at play.

Biomechanics

The surface we’re running on isn’t the same

While the tarmac or any outdoor terrain slows us down, due to the friction, on the treadmill we “move”. However, as some research indicates, the energy cost between one activity and another is similar if we add a 1% slope to the treadmill.

Biomechanics treadmill

Auto-Pilot

Running on the treadmill, given the environment it takes place it, can sometimes result in inertia, meaning our attention moves from the activity itself to other things and puts us into ‘Auto-Pilot’.

Weather Conditions

If it’s raining, if it’s cold, if it’s windy… these are enough motive for a lot of people «to give it up for the day».

Weather conditions running

But if we run indoors, we don’t have to worry about this

Comfort

Running on the treadmill is often easier

The mere fact of avoiding air resistance already conditions us to be able to increase the time or intensity of the run, as it’s an extra expense that our leg muscles must overcome.

Benefits of Running on a Treadmill

Running on a treadmill offers a number of possible benefits with respect to outdoor activity, such as controlling exercise conditions:

Heart rate control

We can constantly monitor our pulses by means of a simple visual display to keep them within the intensity “zone” we’ve planned. Before starting a physical activity, to evaluate our health conditions, or to directly check the result of an intensity test, it’s an excellent tool.

Weather conditions

The rain, temperature and wind are all external factors that we can’t control and that affect us in our runs

If your goal is to maintain your physical condition, I’d maybe go for a run on a treadmill. Although some people really don’t mind getting «drenched». I don’t know if any of you have ever run against the wind, but for me it’s one of the most uncomfortable sensations… And in relation to the temperature, there are different types: very cold or very hot…

Rain running

But we can still maintain our metabolic training if we can’t go outdoors

Slopes

If we live in an area where there are too many slopes, and we don’t want to take the car to go to another area with a stable level, then running on the treadmill might be be the best solution

On the other hand, training in the open air is associated with high intensity activity, as unless we climb several hills, both heart rate and fatigue would skyrocket and the duration of the activity might be much shorter.

Run hills

Training on slopes to increase power

Safety

Although we’re always aware of all our angles, it wouldn’t be the first time we get a scare from an oversight

And running around with headphones on, listening to music, can further increase this risk. Running down a street and twisting your ankle or more seriously being run over by any vehicle are the most frequent cases.

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Benefits of Running on the Road

However, running in the street or outdoors has its attractions:

Sense of Freedom

I think this is one of the main factors for choosing to run outside

There are many people who suffer a certain amount of stress if they run on a treadmill and can only watch a TV screen or simply walls or lights, although in the best case scenario you’ll be able to see the street through the window. On the other hand, if we run on the street, we feel the air on our face, we breathe more pure air, not as “concentrated” as in the gym, and we have the option of switching up our route as we wish (avoiding the “hamster wheel”).

Run motivating

Each training day can be different

Motivating

If we look for a path to follow, we can turn it into a competition against ourselves, trying to improve our time. Although this is easily practicable on the treadmill, outdoors it takes on a special dimension, as we have to face the “obstacles” that arise, which results in a much more fun and enjoyable sporting session.

Speed

Although the treadmill let’s you vary the speed, it will never be the same as making a change of pace or sprinting while running on the road

If we plan a “Fartlek” training, although it is possible to do it in both scenarios, it will always be much easier, more comfortable and dynamic outdoors version than by pressing some button, and of course changing from recovery mode to fast mode…

Benefits run street

Running by observing nature can effectively “oxygenate” you

When Would I Prefer to Run on a Treadmill than on the Road?

When trying to save time

If we live in an urban environment, we’ll have little opportunity to run on the street

Dodging cars, pedestrians and any other objects that are part of this environment is not, I think, the most sensible thing to do. If the solution is to take our vehicle, or “jog” out of this environment, and be able to run freely, it can mean extra time, which, given the busy pace of life, becomes complicated.

To avoid not training

On the other hand, if we get up and do our morning cardio exercise session on a treadmill just before breakfast, and then calmly eat breakfast and go to work, it will be a great way to start the day with vitality and energy, and with the “duty” done.

Treadmill at home

Having your own treadmill at home has its benefits

After training

If you’re a fan of intervallic training, where high intensity rhythms are interspersed with other lower or recovery rhythms, the treadmill can be a great tool, above all at the end of your weight training sessions.

We can do HIIT training right at the end of the exercise as an extra to improve physical condition, and to burn up extra calories

Which is Better, Running on a Treadmill or Running on the Road?

From my point of view, it depends

Generally I would prefer, whenever possible, to run in the open air, but in certain cases and at certain times it may be more feasible to take advantage of the resources offered by the Treadmill. Obviously, if our goal is to compete or prepare a race, the use of the Treadmill would be for specific cases only, leaving the bulk of the work to training both outdoors and on the track…

Running with a treadmill incline

How to know the best Speed for Running with a Treadmill Incline?

Music for Running on the Treadmill

One of the somewhat unfavourable points of running on the treadmill, in my opinion, is the noise

The mixture between the sound of the music in the gym (which is sometimes not to the taste of many clients…) together with the shouts of the most “motivated” in the weights, or the “chatting” of many others, can result in lowering tremendously the motivation…

So my advice is that you put on your headphones (bluetooth if possible, to avoid the hassle of wires), and use one of the “PlayLists” that exist, or even create your own with your favourite style and songs.

Here’s an example:

Hydration for Runners

Whether you choose to run on a treadmill or outdoors, or if you alternate them both, you should know that running is a strenuous activity, and we lose liquids and mineral salts as a result

And depending on the weather or the intensity of the exercise, we need to assess our hydration levels in order to avoid major problems, whether that be in the form of injuries or, more seriously, heat stroke.

Hydration runners

Do you know the differences between isotonic, hypotonic and hypertonic drinks?

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Review of Running on the Road VS Running on the Treadmill

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Aids Cardiovascular Health - 100%

Improves Anaerobic Threshold - 100%

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About Javier Colomer
Javier Colomer
Under the motto “Knowledge Makes me Stronger”, Javier Colomer clearly expresses his intentions to share his knowledge and experience within the world of Fitness. His BPT training system is proof of this.
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