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Should I run on a treadmill or outside ?

Posted by Pascal Landshoeft

Feb 15, 2016 10:00:00 AM

Treadmill or outside ?

Should I run on a treadmill or outside ?

Summarising this topic Ithink occasional and unfit runners who are not so sure abut themselves should start out on a treadmill to get used to running. Everyone who really wants to compete in mi distances, sprints or marathons are generally better off running outside, except the have a real challenge to keep their pace, where the treadmill can be occasionally incporporated to get a tightly controlled pace training in which is not influenced by external weather factors.

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About me

If you are a regular you can skip this section. If you just found my blog to find an answer to this question, here is some backgrund information for you.

In my teenage years I did Judo for twelve years finishing with a black belt. The group I trained in produced one bronze medalist at the olympic games in Sydney, so I would call that semi professional. We did not get paid, but he best of us competed at international level, most of us at national and some of us at regional level. Check the olympic records for Julia Matijas 2004 -48kg to see who I trained with. 

Back then I hated running. It was my nemesis and I rather spent my time reading or lifting weights in the gym.

After university I was fat and in 2013 i decided to do something about it and from there went on to run three marathons from October 2013 until mid of 2015. So I am not a pro, but I might know a thing or two about running.


What is your goal

As with anything in sports it depends on what your goals are and how much time you have to achieve them If you just want to run to lose some weight and for health purposes it is completely different from running a marathon in under three hours (like I would like to do and still haven't achieved. Currently I am bogged down in lifting and achieving my goals there).

For all of these scenarios you will most liekely come across the question of whether to run on a treadmill or not.

Research not conclusive

As with any wear and tear that happens over a long period of time and which is correlating with a lot of determination on the part of the individual, good data is scarce. So far I have not really found any conclusive evidence whether running on the street, cross or a treadmill is better or worse for you. 

That being said maybe spend a weekend of research starting with tihs article and dive into the different opinions. 

For me personally it is not a question of whether to run on a treadmil or not. If you believe that running is bad for your knees, to me it is more a question of whether you want to do it at all or not. The question of whether you run on concrete, a treadmill or sand is secondary to that.

Keep in mind that there is a risk of injury attached to almost every sport (except chess maybe, unless your opponent flings the pieces at you in anger). So here the question becomes whether it is more damaging to your health to stay on the couch, get fat and a heart attack or get knee surgery between the age of 40 - 50 if you decide to run. The former will likely kill you and is usually a major deal in the emergency room. The latter is a standard keyhole procedure which there is actually a chance to fully recover from. Your choice. For other sports you can exhange that operation for any other part of the body which is put under the most stress.

Rehab purposes

Treadmills are a good way to start exercising in my opinion for people who do it for rehabilitation purposes or are old. You are in a controlled environment and can determine the speed yourself.

No cars, cyclists or other pedestrians to ut you at risk. If you want to exit, you do not have to make the journey back home and you can hold on to the railings if you are getting wobbly or need extra support.

If yu are recovering from injury, are very overweight or of age, I think apart from swimming walking on a treadmill con ba a very controlled option to at least get you moving.

Occasional runners

Occasional runners might even put more emphasis on the social aspect of running than really running itself. Here I can see that a cosy environment and watching eastenders while on the treadmill and talking about the weeks happenings can be a good way of releasing stress, socialising and still burning a bit calories. Better than nothing and warmer/colder (depending on local climate) than the outside. 


Running / Jogging on a treadmill is in my personal opinion not really suitable for beginners. You usually overestimate your capabilities as a beginner and a treadmill does not compensate for that at all. It might be funny to look at all the gym fails involving treadmills on youtube, but to lose a tooth over it or get a black eye yourself and have to explain to everybody you know how you could have been so stupid is no fun at all. 

If you are a beginner increase and decrease the speed on the treadmill slowly. If you only take one tip from this article, i think this is the one.


To be honest I see no real benefit for sprinters in using a treadmill. It just does not allow for the kind of explsiveness needed for a 100, 200 or 400m sprint in my personal opinion. Go to the track where you belong ;).

Mid Distance runners

If they are indoor i think there is a good use case for pace training on a treadmill. No other tool can be as unforgiving and straight forward about being set to a certain pace and keep for a certain distance or timeframe. If you have problems with the second half on your 10km runs, go on a treadmill hold your race pace relentlessly. This applies even more to poeple who will run indoors. I thin for indoor runners who comepte on the 5km and 10km some treadmill work can make the most sense from my personal experience. Of course nothing is better training than a proper outside run.

Marathon runners

As marathon are always outside and usually on changing turf, I personally do not really see a lot of use for a treadmill for them. Usually it is hardder to run outisde due to slopes, wind and other factors. Practise this in your training, because if you only prepare on the treadmill for race day, you will be in for a nasty surprise. Also... do you really want to spent your long run which can take up to two to three hours on a treadmill... i don't think so

Climate & Animals

If you are keeping yourself fit in siberia i can see how using a treadmill can make sense. Same if you are somewhere along the amazonas and you could actually get bitten by all kinds of death threatening animals while on your run (and yes I have been attacked by a dog once in Ireland while on a run....Imagine if there were tigers...).


If you are already outside a lot for your everyday job, maybe it would be a nice change of scenery to get into the gym and just relax there, maybe. Most poeple in modern civilisation work in an office, though, so the fresh air of an outdoor run will do them a lot of good. 

If you are only able to run at night due to your lifestyle and work hours, i would consider to run on a treadmill, especially if you are a woman. To run outdoors in the woods/parks or other remote areas which you will come to most likely if you do a 10k run, is not always safe. 

If you are in an urban setting I can also understand, if you prefer the treadmill. When I was in Boston for business purposes, I was not familiar with the area and my run became more annoying than enjoyable, because I could not find a proper route where I did not have to stop for red lights every 200m. 


If you are unfit and unsure about yourself the treadmill can actually be a viable option compared to an outdoor run. I am personally not a huge fan of the treadmill, but I think it gets sometimes a bit too much of a bad rap by avid runners who lose track of that not everyone is like them and puttin in a 100 miles a month. There are many types of runners out there and they should not be made uncomfortable, because they get on a treadmill tor run. All in all I think the fresh air component is the most compelling and applicable criteria to run outdoors, but this can also be achieved by a stroll in the park with your beloved.

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Topics: Run Faster