Treadmill vs. Outdoor Running

I ran into a friend yesterday who asked me a question I hear all the time: is treadmill running ok on days like this? Let me just say that yesterday was incredibly humid in NYC, about 85% humidity. My friend also suffers from asthma and finds it tortuous, not to mention unproductive, to run when the humidity gets past a certain point. My answer is this: Treadmill running is fine!

I LOVE and outdoorsy run, but... can work your pace more precisely inside on the treadmill (and without bugs flying into your mouth)

Here’s the thing, running outside is more natural for your body. You balance your weight, propel yourself forward and work through your natural stride. There’s very little you can do wrong with your form outside to mess up your gait because it is such a natural motion for your body. On a treadmill, it is less so. You stride out and sort of propel yourself forward, but there is more jumping up and down than propulsion happening. But, that doesn’t mean that treadmill running is all bad.

On a treadmill, you can work your pace in a safe place. You can push hard and run faster than you do outside in a controlled enviorment. This is beneficial because in order to get faster, you have to train faster and a treadmill is a great place to start running faster. You can set yourself a speed and stick to it without having to think about it. You can work on that foot turnover and your form if the treadmill is in front of a mirror while doing a tempo run at your goal pace.

Sometimes you get lucky on the treadmill and an awesome song comes on (oh, and you run 6:49 minute mile)

And then ANOTHER awesome song comes on and you think the music Gods must be smiling down on you while you do mile repeats 🙂

I’m not saying that you should forego your outdoors running, in fact, I believe that 90% or more of all running should be done outside. Like I said before, it’s more natural for your body. However, Mother Nature doesn’t always agree with us an sends us indoors during snowstorms, lightning, severely windy days and on those hot, humid days when you can’t breathe while walking down the street, let alone running 5 miles. For me, I sometimes have to run indoors because I’m not feeling 100% and the treadmill at my gym is a safe place where I can jog a little bit and just stop if I’m getting in trouble or need to run to the bathroom, and there are always people around to help me if I get really sick (never happened, but makes me feel better that they are there all the same).

So, don’t be afraid of the occasional treadmill day. Head indoors and work on your mile repeats, tempo run or negative splits. Hop on and set your pace to that 8 minute-mile you’ve been saying you want to hit to get an idea of what it feels like to run at that pace. Whatever you do, don’t just get on and do your “usual” thing. Work as hard indoors as you do outdoors and you’ll see the benefit in your future runs.

Alter-G (anti-gravity) treadmills are used by physical therapists and elite athletes (photo courtesy of

Bottom line: It’s a great tool that gets a bad rap.

Now go out and run! (Or, if it’s 100º outside, go IN and run!)

*Housekeeping Note: If you are an email subscriber, I suggest you read the latest blog post on the website instead of in your email. I am working on the layout, but it has been brought to my attention that it’s difficult to read in email form. Click on the title of the blog in the body of the email and you can view the blog from the homepage. It’s prettier that way, too!*

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s