What You Need To Know About Treadmill Running

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Treadmill running is often considered with mixed feelings by runners. For many, it's a second choice after running outdoors. For others, it’s the preferred way to get in the miles.

Running on a treadmill can be just as effective and even offers a few perks that outdoor running cannot provide. Let me tell you about the benefits of treadmill running, how it compares to outdoor running, and how to best prepare for a good treadmill exercise.

Is Treadmill Running Good?

Let’s be real: Heading outdoors isn’t always viable, so sometimes you don’t have a choice but to hit the treadmill in order to keep up with your schedule. Even if you do have a choice, you may want to consider using the treadmill more often.

Treadmill running is, by no means, bad for you. In fact, you may prefer treadmill running under certain circumstances. Here are the top four benefits of treadmill running that will convince you that running on a treadmill is sometimes the better choice:

It lets you exercise in a controlled climate

Compared to treadmill running, running outside can be challenging depending on the conditions. Safety and performance can be affected by rain, wind, hail, ice - you name it! Suboptimal weather conditions can also make it harder for you to dress properly as you’re going through various temperatures between the start and finish of your workout.

In addition to the weather, there is reduced daylight in the winter. If you cannot squeeze in a run during your workday, you’re forced to run in the dark if you want to stick to outdoor running. Have you ever fallen into potholes or stumbled over unexpected terrain? It isn’t fun and can have serious consequences.

But it’s not only cold winters that make running outside unbearable. The same applies to the summer months. Being based in NYC, I can tell you that the city can literally be a melting pot!

The stinging heat and high levels of humidity make it challenging to perform your best in a safe way. Personally, I like to wake up early to go for my morning runs outside and then hit the gym during the day.

Depending on the weather, you may be better off running on a treadmill in a controlled climate. Running in intense heat or frigid cold can be extremely dangerous.

It allows you to tailor your workout to your needs

A treadmill lets you set your desired speed and easily maintain it. This way you can evenly pace but also bump up or down the speed anytime. That alone makes treadmill running for interval running. In addition to speed, you can also determine your incline level. The fact that you can control your own workout conditions helps you get in a more structured run.

Another benefit of treadmill running is that you receive real-time feedback on your speed, miles, heart rate, etc. through the screen without being distracted. You don't need anything on you - no watch, no water, no phone.

It is low impact running

Compared to concrete, a treadmill offers a much softer surface that is gentler to your joints and feet. The even terrain also prevents you from stumbling over little obstacles you may encounter on the road.

But it's not only that; exercising on a treadmill at the gym or at home also gives you the option to stop your run whenever needed. If you feel any pain, especially after an injury, running on the treadmill can be a safer choice. Nobody wants to be 3 miles into a run outdoors and then having to head back.

You can multitask

Treadmill = dreadmill? Some of you may have heard of the so-called “dreadmill” boredom. It refers to the monotony of treadmill running: the same view, the same movements.

That’s where entertainment options come in. If you’re in for the long run, you have the option to watch a show or even a movie along the way. It’s a perk that outdoor running doesn’t offer. I know many runners that enjoy binging their favorite shows while getting in their miles.

While it can be a treat to watch a movie or show during your run, I urge you not to zone out completely and get too distracted. Running safely and effectively requires your attention. Focus on breathing while running, maintaining good posture, and being alert to avoid accidents and injury.

Is Treadmill Running As Effective As Outdoor Running?

The million-dollar question that comes up in every conversation I have about treadmill running is whether treadmill running is as effective as outdoor running?

Yes, it can be. Just because something is different, it doesn’t automatically imply that one is good and one is bad. Both options let you run as long as you want. It’s all about the effort you put into your workout and the preparations to stay safe.

In order to compare treadmill running to outdoor running, we still need to consider where treadmill running is lacking. Here are four benefits outdoor running has over treadmill running:

Views, oxygen & Vitamin D

The obvious benefit of running outdoors vs running on a treadmill is that you can take in the views of nature (or city). The visual stimulation during your run can make you feel more energized leading to longer runs. At the same time, you get to breathe in the fresh air and raise your Vitamin D levels without taking supplements.

Higher energy exertion

While you can achieve a good workout by running outdoors and on a treadmill, you may find that your perceived energy exertion is higher. Why? Running outdoors challenges you with variations in both weather and terrain.

A treadmill tends to propel you forward, so you may find yourself just lifting your feet instead of actively pushing forward.

Muscle development

Varied surfaces and inclinations help develop your legs and ankles. While a treadmill can be monotonous, outdoor running can help you improve your stability by forcing you to navigate different road conditions. However, the very same uneven terrain can be dangerous if you’re not careful.

Running downhill and making turns

Ever been on a treadmill that allows you to run downhill? Me neither! A race has its ups and downs, literally. A treadmill doesn’t let you run downhill or make turns. You will always run in the same direction. Outdoor running, on the other hand, allows you to train your body to be more flexible. It also prepares you better for an actual race.

What You Need For Treadmill Running

If you want to run on a treadmill, the first thing you need is … a treadmill! Most of us have gym memberships but if you have space and spare cash, you should consider buying a treadmill for your home. It’s super convenient to have it only a few seconds away and available whenever you want. After an initial investment, running at home will be free!

The XTERRA Fitness TR150 is a great choice because it has a great price-quality ratio. While it offers comparable value, it is less expensive than many counterparts. Another amazing feature about this treadmill is that you can easily fold it up and store it. Pretty convenient, isn't it?

Always important when running is proper footwear. So what are the best shoes for treadmill running? Is there even a difference between outdoor and indoor shoes? From my experience and in my opinion, you can wear the same shoes for indoor and outdoor running. What matters the most is that your running shoes are dependable and comfortable.

My favorite running shoes are the Adidas Solar Boost and the Adidas Boston. I have been running with Adidas for many years and would choose them over other brands anytime. If Adidas is not for you, check out the Brooks Ghost 12 Running Sneakers.

Need more advice on the right gear? To be fully equipped for your run, check out my favorite running gear for women.

My Treadmill Running Tips For You

There are always a few things you should consider when running. Here's how to get the most out of your treadmill run.

Prepare for your run

Whether you run on a treadmill or outdoors, your preparation should be the same. Properly fueling your body and a good warm-up with stretches is always important regardless of where you run. You can find my tips on what to eat before running as well as some of my favorite pre-run stretches.

Observe your posture

Pay attention to your posture. Gyms are typically equipped with mirrors that come in handy during treadmill running. Checking the mirrors lets you be more self-aware by keeping an eye on your running posture. You may catch yourself leaning forward or poorly aligning your feet.

Go easy & switch it up

Lastly, start your workout easy and gradually increase your speed. The beauty of the treadmill is that you can pick and choose your speed and incline as you go. Don’t get stuck in the same setting for the entire duration of your run. Treadmills are amazing for interval training!

The Bottom Line

You can see that both treadmill running and outdoor running have their benefits. There is no right or wrong! Just like with most things in life, I believe that the secret is to keep a balance. By logging your miles both inside and outside, you can reap the best of both worlds as well as enjoy a certain variety.

Without a doubt, running on the treadmill is an adequate substitute for outdoor running. Whether you are just using the treadmill or use it to supplement your exercise regimen, the benefits are unquestionable. After all, a good run always is what you make it!

Treadmill running FAQs

Still have questions? Here are some frequently asked questions about treadmill running that I’m happy to answer! If you can’t find your answer here, feel free to shoot me an email or message me on Instagram.

Can you lose belly fat by running on a treadmill?

Running on a treadmill is a great way to burn calories. Exercise, like walking or running on a treadmill, creates a calorie deficit. Your body will use fat and turn it into fuel. Regular exercise is the key to losing belly fat. Just don’t run on a treadmill once or twice and expect wonders. Change requires time and discipline! Running, whether indoors or outdoors, is a great sport for those looking to lose belly fat. Read more about running and weight loss to get the full picture.

Is treadmill running bad for you?

Treadmill running is not bad for you. If you prepare for your treadmill run like you do for outdoor runs and focus on your run, it’s just as safe as outdoor running. In fact, treadmill running can be even safer given that you have a more contained environment and that you are protected from inclement weather as well as ever-changing terrain.

How long should you run on a treadmill?

How long you should run on a treadmill depends on your stamina and experience. If you are new to running, take it easy! A 5-minute walk followed by a 5-minute run should be a good place to start. The more experienced you are in running, the more time you can add to your workout.

Is it OK to run on a treadmill every day?

The real question here is should you run every day? If you don’t overdo it, you can run on a treadmill every day as long as you keep some runs short or casual.

Remember that your body needs time to cool down and recover after a workout which is why rest days are very important. If you do decide to run every day, it would probably be more motivating for you to switch between outdoor and treadmill running. I suggest reading my article on how often you should run before committing to run every day.

Why you can trust Sabrina Wieser
Runningbrina is committed to bringing you unbiased ratings and information. Her editorial content is not influenced by advertisers. Sabrina uses data-driven methodologies to evaluate all products, so all brands are measured equally.
  • Most featured running blog, past 6 years
  • USATF certified running coach
  • Experienced endurance athlete
  • 7 marathons

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