When you run outside you get a boost from Mother Nature: the trail flies along underneath you and you’re adjusting as you go along. Sometimes flat, sometimes uphill, sometimes soft terrain, sometimes flat top; you’re body needs to make a million adjustments in order to run outside and helps provide a big boost in mood from being out in the world. You work harder and burn more calories too.
Outdoor exercise boosts moods, even just a quick 15 minutes can make you feel better. Also, by varying your terrain and rolling along with hills and valleys, you’ll be training your muscles in a variety of different impact positions. This means stronger quads, hamstrings, and glutes, and it also means stronger ankles and knees. (As long as you don’t push yourself too hard!) That said, there are good reasons for treadmill training too.
Reasons for Using a Treadmill
Asthma. I have a touch of asthma and it really only bothers me on those steamy, humid summer days. In those conditions, I really struggle with an outdoor run and I’m in much better shape if I pop on a treadmill instead. I can get my miles in without using an inhaler.
Recovering from injury. Treadmill beds have up to 40% softer impact than the surface you’re running on, especially if you’re a sidewalk jogger. If you’re fighting an injury or recovering from one, consider using the treadmill to get your body used to running again before heading back outside.
It’s bloody cold outside. If you’d rather burrow under your blankie than run in cold temperatures, I can relate. But if the mercury really would cause you to skip a workout, hop on a treadmill instead. You’ll get your miles in and you can watch really bad TV.
There is one great advantage to outdoor running in keeping your promise to run a certain number of miles that James pointed out. If you run say three miles from your house, you’ve gotta get back. Unless you flag a cab, you’re under your own steam to return home. (I did, shamefully, flag an MBTA bus once and begged for a ride home because I had no fare money on me and the very nice lady let me on.)
While running outside is the best way to go for most people, it’s not the be all, end all. The most important thing is that you’re running; everything else is just gravy. Stay safe, train smart, and enjoy what you’re doing.
How do you like to run?