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Treadmill Running vs Outdoor Running: Which is Better?

It's game time, it's you and your run. Which avatar are you going to choose? Treadmill or Outdoors. Each comes with their strength and weaknesses, and each has polarizing arguments from those that love them. However, it's crunch time----how do you choose the one that's right for you? What are the peaks and pits for both options? Coaches Christine and Shelby unwrap and unravel those tough questions and give you the benefits and downfalls in one place so you can make the decision that's right for you and your season of running.

While we want to be clear, there is no WRONG answer. Getting your run-in will give you a plethora of benefits both physically and mentally so don't let this list deter you from getting up and getting sweaty. If you have more questions about the best option for you, your current training, and how we could help you as a 1:1 TFB Training Athelte, we invite you to schedule a complimentary call with us to chat! You can reach us at

Treadmill Running vs Outdoor Running

Let's start with the good. We like looking at the bright side and think starting by highlighting the benefits lets each option shine bright like a diamond.

Benefits of Treadmill Running:

  • Those fancy buttons on the treadmill dash? It allows you to set your pace and forget about it. You can adjust with the press of a button without much thought and makes speed work a breeze to ensure the goal paces are reached with every rep.

  • Speaking of buttons, those incline options are a runner's BFF when hills aren't an option (Looking at all our Florida runners here). This takes out the variable of having to find an acceptable bridge to run repeats on and can also be used for a really effective incline power walk on cross-training days.

  • Softer surfaces lessen the impact with each step. You aren't logging mile after mile on tough concrete with no give, each step will have a bit of rebound or give to it to ensure that your knees and joints won't absorb that same shock.

  • No matter what, it'll be there. Regardless of travel, weather, heat advisories, or schedules, the treadmill is always there for you. You can hop on while your kid naps, in between meetings, or when it's midnight. You don't have to worry about the "what ifs" and can move your workout around your schedule easier than considering the extras that often pop up.

  • Calling it in for a confidence boost! Especially for new runners timid to head outside, the treadmill can be a great way to test out the sport, get comfortable running, and not be afraid of going out with no way to turn back. It can be an integral tool to break down some of the barriers that keep people from trying.

Benefits of Outdoor Running:

  • Soak up some Vitamin D!! Just be sure to wear your sunscreen as Nikki, a stage IV metastatic melanoma survivor, reminded us! Over 35% of the population is vitamin D deficient so being able to get moving and help out our natural levels is like getting a free banana after a race, FABULOUS!

  • You have exposure to real terrain and conditions: Potholes, gravel, dirty, concrete, and the occasional poop in the middle of the sidewalk—all of this translates into agility, stability, and maneuverability that will be essential on race day especially. You are forced to adjust your pacing naturally vs relying on the machine to do it for you and those opportunities to avoid obstacles will lead to better control and reflexes.

  • Muscles work smarter and harder. Varying terrain will have you work different muscle groups harder to, duck, dive, and dodge whatever is in your way. Still worried about the impact? Hit the trails! That packed dirt can give stability with a side of give that concrete, sidewalks, and roads don't provide. Another great option to lessen the impact? Check out your local track, especially at schools the tracks are usually synthetic rubber that makes you feel like you are bouncing on a cloud. Ok, maybe not THAT soft but you get the picture.

  • Ability to disconnect and destress. While we do hope you are listening to your FAVORITE podcast, we also hope that you are putting your phone on do not disturb and silencing the notifications from work, your significant other, or any of the other 15 people trying to reach out. Plus, blue light is melatonin's nemesis (melatonin helps us sleep) so think of it as a little pre-sleep helper.

Downfalls of Treadmill Running:

  • It doesn’t work as many muscles and can cause some strain. Due to the treadmill belt is going in the opposite direction of your intended movement and can “pull” you back. While on the flip side, when you run outside you're on your own pacing and pushing yourself forward.

  • It can get boring. Starting at the same wall, watching the same TV shows, and being stationary can all take a bit of the excitement out. You have to get creative on how to keep it interesting. While we can plan fun workouts for our athletes, it's also a great idea to pick some shows, movies, or documentaries to keep your mind off the time. We have our fair few that we recommend HERE

  • BIGGEST DOWNFALL ALERT: It doesn’t prepare you for outdoor races. You aren’t exposed to the conditions, you don’t learn to pace yourself, you can become “climate controlled” and you can get fatigued faster due to all of this, especially on race day. For some runners, this isn't a big concern and during certain training cycles or seasons of life, there is no way around it. However, if you are going to be running in races, this should definitely be a conversation with your coach on how to properly ratio out indoor vs outdoor runs.

Downfalls of Outdoor Running:

  • Terrain/Conditions: Both a goody and a baddy—it’s raining? You’re going. It’s super hot? You’re melting. You won’t have it all smooth sailing and have to be prepared for the unpreparable. You often are dealt with the hand and you have to play it without any wild cards. You can't move a mountain, control the temperature, or avoid that bridge you love to hate---you can either run with it or well, that's basically the choice.

  • Plan, measure, repeat: Having to map out a run to ensure distance, no hills or yes hills, traffic stops, etc. can lead to bit of logistic Tetris. Plus if you are on a time crunch you have to factor in start time/stop time, travel time if any, and make sure you get that shower in! Keep in mind too that traffic, road closures, and miscalculations can throw off your mojo and cut into your run time so be sure to put in a bit of a buffer just in case.

  • It’s going to feel harder. Your pacing, stamina and effort levels will all feel different outside than inside. Not only will you be pushing yourself forward and adjusting your own pace, but you also won’t have the air conditioning, the smooth surfaces, and run the risk of getting the occasional bug in your face. Inside you generally only have to GO (even with a kid snack request).

Again, there are no wrong options, but there is a better option to lean towards depending on your season of training, life, and personal goals. You don't have to figure it out alone though and be lost in a whirlwind of wonder. Join our Facebook community, schedule a complimentary 1:1 athlete information call, and let us help bring your running from "Whatttttt" to "WOW"

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