Treadmill vs Outdoor Running - The Definite Guide

Treadmill vs Outdoor Running – The Definite Guide

running outside vs on a treadmill

Today we will try to debunk the eternal question, if it is better, cooler, healthier and generally more acceptable to run outside than on a treadmill.

You have probably noticed already that there seems to be two tribes. Those who literally hate treadmills, and those who don’t (oh, well). I never figured out why is it so. They say treadmill is bad because it’s inside. You can’t feel the wind going through your hair or nostrils, you don’t enjoy the view and it is also loud and wrong and the minutes seem like days … you know what?


But there are still hidden benefits of running on a good treadmill for home and I will try my best to explain how to look at any given treadmill in a different way.

First, let’s get one thing right. It is easier to run on a treadmill (at least for me it always was). This is probably because they are of better ‘ground’ than the concrete if you are running outside (and not on a terrain). And to make your life at least a little bit more complicated – read: to compensate for the easiness – you need to put your incline to 1%, thus emulating the wind outside. It has to do something with the wind resistance and physics and things I don’t totally understand. A lot of technical or scientific mumbo jumbo which isn’t that important really. But if you insist, you can find the whole science under this link.

Now that we know how to equalize running outside vs on a treadmill let’s try to look at the benefits.

Run When You Want and How You Want It

Seriously. Ok, hard core runners will say they run in wind, in snow, in rain and heavy rain, heck the Hurricane can’t keep them from running in the forests and with their dogs or birds or whatever. The only thing they need is a good waterproof jacket, and maybe a pair of winter running shoes too. But those of us who actually care a little about our own health wouldn’t mind the substitute for rainy days in form of a treadmill.

young woman running on a treadmill

Because, running is what we do. That cannot be changed. To run we have to. To be soaking wet we don’t have to. In the end, running is about enjoying life and exercise and okay it is also about connecting with the nature but not just at any cost.

Safety First

Those lucky enough to live in a nice neighborhood would not understand but in urban areas, especially in big cities, running outside can be dangerous. Especially for women, but men are falling victim here as well. This is why there are countless trainings in self defense that are pointed toward joggers.

Imagine the situation when you can’t sleep at 1AM, and all you can think of is you need a good exercise to get you exhausted. Because you know you will sleep better after a good one hour run. And then you realize, without a treadmill nearby your only option is to go to a 24/7 gym if there is one, or to run outside.

I don’t know about you, but if I am outside at 1AM and I am not in a bar, then something is not right.

Water is Life

This is obvious, and I don’t really want to exaggerate, nor to overcomplicate it. While you run, you lose fat (did you know, that when losing weight most of the fat turns into water?) and you lose water because you sweat and you go to the bathroom and then you sweat some more.

You guessed it right, all that water gone needs to be replaced. While we can run for an hour or so without even thinking of taking a sip of the liquid life, sometimes we certainly prefer if water bottle is right in front of us, you know, just in case. With a machine, that’s possible. Running outside it is still possible to take the water with you, but it’s more complicated. It’s a bigger deal, cause you need to be able to carry it somehow. Maybe you can try running with the Mule NV backpack (and let us know how it goes, because we only used it for hikes so far).

Preparing for Longer Hikes or Runs

This is a true story. But not a sad one, it’s very happy. Really.

My first normal hike – the one that actually got me into loving outdoors – was 15 years ago. I was a bad beginner on a beginners path, but 2 hours with a pretty steep incline for a guy who was totally out of shape was not really an easy thing to do. There were several points when I thought to myself “shit, I am going back, who needs this kind of crap in his life“.

Luckily there were some friends who kept the spirit in me and we made it, and it was one of the best experiences of my life. How does it connect to treadmills?

We started going to this particular mountain cottage regularly. Well, yearly. Sort of a Christmas party: it was always in December, sometimes in snow deep so deep, you could hardly walk in it.

Knowing how I was completely out of shape the first time, I decided to train for my second hike. And I used a treadmill in my gym (still didn’t have one at home then) to run for 1 or 1,5 hours.

What made it look like a real hike, is the program that I called “Granny Teeth”. And I formally apologize from all them grannies who actually have all their teeth.

So anyway, what’s Granny Teeth? You know when you watch National Geography and you see those old, old, third world country people with half teeth here and there. Now those teeth reminded me of the incline spikes in my treadmill exercise.

What I did was to run for 10 minutes at a normal incline, say 1%, and then walk for 3-5 minutes with a bigger incline, 5%, 6% sometimes I went all the way to 9 or 10%. When you setup a speed on your treadmill and put it to 9% incline trust me, that is no child’s game. And then repeat that through an hour, or hour and a half. Anyway I wrote about this hiking preparation here (not just physically but also, what gear to wear etc).

Guess what? In couple of months, I got so fit that the 2 hour hike to the Cottage was a no-brainer. Snow or not, I was in a pretty decent shape. And I could climb the thing without a problem. It made me healthier and it made my life more beautiful. So you see. I endorse outside living as well.

Man running outside

Is Treadmill Really That Boring?

There is a common misconception that treadmills are utterly boring. Well, some might say that running is boring by itself. But that is not completely true. You can do numerous things while you run. For example, meditate. If you don’t know how to do that, read this book called Running with the mind of Meditaion.

Now personally, I don’t meditate while running. But audiobooks? Yeah baby. Entrepreneurs like me, we constantly need to educate ourselves in a lot of ‘verticals’. I call it the 4M (not sure if it’s my invention or I heard it somewhere) and it’s not necessarily in this order, but it is:

  • Marketing – this is the fuel of your business, you need to be doing marketing every day, it’s like brushing your teeth, at least twice a day do some marketing, and here is a good book to start with
  • Mindset – if you have the wrong mindset, everything will fall apart, so an audio book like this one might change your life actually.
  • Management – unless you are a one-man show, but even then, hey, you need to outsource and to manage people and here’s a classic to help you get started.
  • Money – you need to know where your money comes from, where it goes. Most importantly, you need to know how to manage personal finance.

And today, since time is a commodity and also something we don’t really have, the best thing to do is combine two three things together.

This is why while we run,

  • we should listen to podcasts
  • or audio books,
  • or meditate,
  • or in the end we can also watch our favorite TV show.

But definitely not just run.

I know, I know. You can listen to things while you are running outside too, but don’t forget that it is a little bit more dangerous since you will be unaware of the outside environment. In urban areas where there are cars and trucks or even just bicycles this is extremely dangerous. While on a treadmill you can enjoy your audio to the max and never worry about being hit by anything.

Finally, No Need to Dress Up

One might argue that running outside also calls for a good set of nice gear. You can’t just get out and run in any kind of beginner running shoes, you need the real deal. To show the world that you know what you are doing. Then you need a clean shirt, some sweatpants or special runner pants and wrist watches and bottle holders and God knows what not and just putting on all that clothes is making me think twice before I chose outside instead of indoor treadmill. Unless I go out for a forest run or other crazy terrain run which sometimes I do.

And on treadmill? Well you can run naked and nobody will protest. If you are home, that is.

If you are in your gym please don’t run naked for the sake of all humanity!

running outside vs on a treadmill

If you are looking to find a good and affordable treadmill, check this article.

That’s all folks. Go to sleep now 🙂

About the author

    Yani G.

    Hiker and a gadget freak. When not reviewing the latest products on the market, Yani is traveling the world with his lovely wife, exploring new horizons and telling us about it.

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