Running is my workout of choice and after a few months of it slipping on my list of priorities, I’m beginning to increase my mileage. I’m not fast, but I enjoy it, which is the most important thing when finding a fitness routine. You’ll stick to what you like. And running seems to be the activity that everyone would like to enjoy so I tend to get a lot of questions about it. One of the most common is: treadmill or outdoors? I go back and forth on this myself but the response is pretty simple – whichever you will do more often and actually enjoy.
When I first started running, I ran exclusively on the treadmill. Outdoors didn’t seem appealing. Too many dynamics – the weather, figuring out hydration, keeping track of distance. The treadmill was just easier. But over time the treadmill started getting too routine, so I decided to sign up for my first 10K and eventually I started liking running outside a lot better than indoors. The dynamics of being outside makes it much more enjoyable for me. If I need water, I’ll stop and drink some. Or, on really hot days maybe I’ll run with a water bottle in hand. And in the days before GPS, I would just estimate.
That was nearly 10 years ago when I ran my first 10K (yikes! I’m old!) and now while I’ll run outside probably 9 times out of 10, I do find myself on the treadmill every so often. Obviously, I’m not a fitness expert and the benefits of the treadmill (softer on the joints) or outdoor (more natural form) running go beyond this, but this is how I decide which I should run on.
I like the treadmill better:
- When I want to work on speed. I find it more effective to do interval training (which helps increase your speed over time) by controlling my distance and speed using the treadmill. An alternative is also the track, but I prefer running on a treadmill versus running in circles outside.
- When the weather sucks. I don’t mind running with some drizzle and I’m slowly training my body to deal with windy SF evenings, but if the weather is too extreme, I just move my run indoors.
- When I travel to a city where I don’t want to get lost. It can be difficult to run outside in a city you’re not familiar with, and sometimes it’s just easier to get the workout done at the hotel gym. Or… let’s be real, sometimes it’s better to skip a workout altogether.
- When I’m feeling sluggish or lazy but need to get my body moving. All of us have days where we need motivation. I’ll go to the gym at the same time as one of my favorite shows (Real Housewives maybe) and hope that my energy picks up as I’m moving. And if it doesn’t, I’ll just do some weight training to make the trip to the gym worthwhile and call it a day.
I like outdoors better:
- To get the body trained to “race” dynamics. If you’re going to be running races, even a 5K, treadmill training can only do so much. And for longer distances, it goes a step beyond just the treadmill versus outdoors – you have to train your body in the conditions (hilly, hot, etc) of the race you’re training for.
- When I want to run for distance. 6 miles is my painful limit on the treadmill, and that is on a good day. When I want to run a long, easy pace, I put together a great playlist, go outside and enjoy the scenery.
- When I travel somewhere I want to explore or get lost. One of my favorite activities when I travel is “runsploring”. I throw on my running shoes and jog around to explore a city and get a better idea of where I want to spend more time later. It’s a great way to see a city and get a good workout in.
- When I’m hitting a running plateau and it’s beginning to get dull. I’ll run outside, ideally with a new playlist, and explore new running routes.