Treadmill vs outside

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cougie    pirate
14/11/2007 at 16:56

I'm sure one of the top womens marathonners won London after almost exclusively running on treadmills.

If it was a choice of tready or no running - I'd do the tready, but clearly a bit of both would be better than just indoor running. Fresh air ! Scenery ! Bunny Rabbits !

14/11/2007 at 17:19
Can we please stop saying that there is a mechanical difference between a treadmill and outside running.  This is a commonly held but incorrect viewpoint.  Apart from air-resistance and other subtle mechanical factors (see my earlier post), there is NO DIFFERENCE between the two.  Treadmills do not 'pull your legs back' any more than the ground does.  Any differences in running action are small and there is clearly a very large cross-over of the physiological effects of training between treadmills and outside running. 
11/12/2007 at 21:29

Hi, i'm new to this site, but find it really helpful.  I use to do most of my running in winter on a treadmill and run outside in the summer, and I agree,  it is much harder running outside than on a treadmill.  I felt that the time on the treadmill had been wasted as when I started running outside, it felt like I had never run before in my life.  Now I have ditched the treadmill, bought proper all weather running gear and run outside whatever the weather. After a few weeks of persevering, road running comes like second nature now, I am running between 7 and 12 miles on training days and finding it comfortable.  You just have to grit you teeth, listen to your body and don't push yourself too hard and it will all come together.

11/12/2007 at 22:13


Thank g*d for another sane person on the subject of treadmill running.  I have tried for years to counter the prevailing theory that treadmill running is easier because the treadmill is doing the work for you as the belt is going backwards of its own volition and so you don't have to push yourself forward.

I have two favoutite analogies.  One is whether you can run from the front to the back of a train carriage at around 30-90 mph quicker that it would take you to run from the back to the front.  After all the floor of the train is moving very rapidly in one direction and you are only moving relative to the floor.

The other which is more extreme is the question of whether the world record for the 100 metres is always set running east to west on the equator when you have to ground moving at severall hundred/thousand miles per hour under your feet and thau helping you  more than considerably.

All said I find treadmill running much harder than running outside as the need to maintain a constant speed at all times stops one easing back for hills or merely to allow ones breathing to recover etc or to stumble to on side or the other as occasionally occurs in real life.


11/12/2007 at 23:36
I read you need to add 15 seconds to each mile you do on the treadmill to equal your outside speed
12/12/2007 at 11:15

Wolfy, Burnt Out, I've been saying the same on a few threads recently too!  Thankyou.

 Paul F, 15 secs a mile sounds about right as a rule of thumb to account for wind resistance. That's roughly equivalent to 0.5 kph or an incline of 1%, according to various sources.

12/12/2007 at 13:28
I read that in "running is easy" by Bruce Tulloh, which is about 4 or 5 years old now. I tend to work by heart rate or Perceived Exertion on the treadmill anyway.
12/12/2007 at 13:45
Funny isn't it.  If you think the treadmill is "doing all the work for you", why not stop doing the work yourself and see how quickly you shoot off the back and crash into the gym bunny reading Hello magazine on the Concept II behind you. 
12/12/2007 at 14:02
Burnt Out,

Good luck!  Galileo proved the equivalence of motion in non-accelerating frames of reference in a famous thought-experiment several hundred years ago (search Wikipedia for ‘Galileo's ship’).  The fact that the same misconceptions about treadmill walking/running are still held shows that these concepts are probably counter-intuitive for a lot of people. 

You are right in trying to come-up with an analogy that is better understood - I think one of the issues is that the belt surface is not perceived as a constant velocity reference, possibly because it is so small and vision tells us we are stationary.  My favourite analogies include increasing the belt size to that of large airport moving-walkways or bigger.  I’ve also tried asking what would happen if you were running at 10 mph on a treadmill, which was itself on the back of a lorry driving at 10mph; in this case the treadmill belt would be stationary relative to the ground, and you would be running at 10 mph overground.  If people understand this to be equivalent to overground running, then they should appreciate that there will be no difference if the lorry moves at a different (constant) speed, or is stationary.

As to the ACTUAL differences between treadmills and overground running (beyond air resistance), in some recent experiments we showed that treadmill belts can decelerate by 10% or more on foot contact – this reduces the effective speed of the treadmill by the same amount, and the fact that the treadmill accelerates to maintain its average speed when the foot is in the air has no bearing on the treadmill user.  These decelerations vary greatly from treadmill to treadmill, so my advice is to stick to the same treadmill, and treat the indicated speed as being a rough approximation to outdoor speeds.

04/01/2008 at 14:43
I've been running for many years and did start on the treadmill and have to say from memory that it was hard to start running outside again after using the treadmill. Now after 4 years of running outside I only use the treadmill during the winter as it gets very cold here and icy. I also love doing my speed sessions on the treadmill as I seriously push myself and it seems to work wonders for my outside running. I think the best thing to do is a bit of both when you are training, it also keeps boredom at bay in both areas because I do find that if you don't have time to find a new route outside, you get bored of your usual outside route (hope I make sense there) However I do hate the fact that I always come back to work bright red after my speed sessions on the treadmill as I feel as though I look considerably unfit but then I think its me being silly!
04/01/2008 at 14:52

I'm sure one of the top womens marathonners won London after almost exclusively running on treadmills.

 Greta Waitz did nearly all her training on a  treadmill

05/01/2008 at 11:10

Just to add my two pence. I run on road and treadmill.Run on treadmill at more than one gym.

I get the feeling not all tread mills are calibrated accurately, for example 10 km feels harder on some than on thers, at same incline. So, I would not take the actual speed as gospel. Think this may account for some people finding it easier others harder than running on road, at what is thought to be same speed.

From a personal point of view I find it tougher after about 40 mins on tread mill, due to lack of cooling/looking at same wall all time.But, as someone else pointed out I think it is good doing long times on one for mental training.


05/01/2008 at 11:26

I have a tougher time on the treadmill than I do outdoors.  I love running outdoors even below 0 degrees.

 I agree with NiftyAMP.   I think the machines are calibrated differently.  Being petite and a competitive racer, I have a tougher time on the treadmills than my friends who are taller and absolutely out of shape!  Maybe its the monotony or the dizziness from 40 min +  on the machines, but I need to get outside unless it is icy.

05/01/2008 at 12:15

I thought it was Ingrid Kristiansen who did the majority of her training on the treadmill, perhaps both Ingrid and Grete Waitz did!

And I wish I could add 15 seconds a mile to my treadmill time to equal my outdoor time. My 10km best on the treadmill is 33m 34s, and my outdoor best is 38m 29s! Both of these were within a few weeks of each other last year. I was probably doing 75% of my training on the treadmill though...

05/01/2008 at 13:18

(Waves hello to BO)

Wolfy, I've had similar discussions over the years but I'm not so confident when it comes to an incline. My rudimentary physics tells me that this is the same as running uphill but when I run up a hill outdoors it does feel as though I'm using my quads more than when I set an incline on the treadmill. I suspect that the hills I run up are much steeper than the incline of a treadmill - what do you think? 

11/08/2008 at 12:18
I can't work out if my treadmill speed is in mph or kph. Reading the thread i would have said mph which would make me quicker on the treadmill than outside. But i'm wondering if i am actually slower on the treadmill as i have previously done all of my running on the roads. I know...I'm confused. I have a half marathon pb of 1hr 31 and a 10k of 41.43 which roughly means i race at 7 min miles, but when i run for 30 minutes on the treadmill at a testing but comfortable pace i cover 5.5, but of what miles or kilometres???? if miles this means i'm running under 6 min miles but if kilometres this means i am very slow on the treadmill, any tips for how i can work this one out as i could do with knowing how far i am running in what time as i am training towards a sub 3.30 London marathon.
11/08/2008 at 13:24

I use a gym once a week but probably would never have bothered if it hadn't have been for snow and ice stopping me running for about a week and a half a couple of winters back. I have kept it up because I end up doing a greater range of stuff in the gym which can't be a bad thing. I use it more in winter than summer although the weather has to be pretty evil to keep me indoors.

Treadmill running is dull and hot but I like that it's flat and paces me, which becomes a transferable skill and helps me to be more "metronomic" outside. 

In comparison to running outdoors I think it depends where you live. I'm lucky that I have a beautiful country park to run in (Sutton), but when I lived in inner Birmingham I think I might have preferred the treadmill! 

One thought that occurs to me reading this thread is the complaint about treadmills being placed opposite mirrors. I have always thought this is an attempt to combat the psychological impact of "running into a wall" as it were. If the treadmill is in the middle of the room thats fine, but if it faces a wall, give me a mirror every time!

12/08/2008 at 15:28

Deffo outside, unless it is absolutely chucking it down, then go for the treadie.

12/08/2008 at 17:34

Outside rain or shine.  Do a rural route and watch the nature/seasons change. No apologies, I'm a definite tree-hugger.

Treadmills are only ever good if you absolutely can't get out - i.e pitch dark and dangerous. 

Best run = freezing cold, virgin snow, out in the countryside - what a buzz.

 Roll on a proper Winter ! 

8iron    pirate
08/10/2008 at 18:22
Most find it the other way around.  this happened to a friend of mine, but his GPS was MPH and his treadmil was in KPH!!  He was shocked to find he could not sustain 10 mph on the road!!! Easy mistake to make i guess?  Well maybe not!!
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