Need to Know: Treadmill versus Outdoor Running

As the weather cools off and snow starts to fall, lots of runners turn to the temperature controlled pleasures of a treadmill.  While it can be a little less scenic than running outdoors, treadmill training has its own benefits.  It has its own pitfalls as well, so read on to learn what you need to know about the differences between outdoor and indoor running.

Running indoors is safer, sort of.  With the shorter days of winter, running indoors is safer than running outside in the dark, and it’s also much less slippery than maneuvering over snow and ice.  Treadmills can be dangerous as well, and while you can get in some guilt free TV time running indoors, it can also be boring.  Terrain is constantly changing outside, but you can turn your brain off on the treadmill because your foot lands the same way every step.  It’s important to stay aware, too far to the left or right and you can be sent straight back into a wall, another person, or another piece of equipment.

The belt of a treadmill is more forgiving than the pavement or sidewalk out in the cold.  At the same time, the belt helps you along.  It’s important to know that because the belt does this, your running form can change, and not always for the good.  Your foot can be in contact with the belt longer than it would be with the ground outside, and that alters your running stride.  Since the belt is moving, your quads fire to push off, but rather than using your hamstring to finish your stride, the belt does it for you.  This change puts extra strain on the quad and gives the hamstring less work to do.  Some people also learn forward excessively in an effort to keep up with the moving belt, which isn’t an issue outside.  Being aware of this and making sure to take short, quick steps will help protect proper running form.

Treadmills are flat.  They also have a great incline feature, allowing you do get in some serious hill work without braving the elements.  Raising the belt to various levels during a run can help keep your mind working, leaving you safe and sound in the middle of the belt, and can keep hamstrings a little more active.  Another outdoor condition you won’t find in the gym is wind.  Working against wind resistance is a natural part of running outside, and training without it can mean you expend less energy over the course of your run.  By increasing your pace slightly, you can get the same increase in heart rate as running against some wind while staying nice and warm inside.

Now you know how to get the most out of your next treadmill workout, so keep up on your training and get ready for your first spring race!

For more information on treadmill training or getting ready for your race season, contact us at!!!


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