Which Is Better - Road Running Or The Treadmill?

It’s Monday evening, you’ve finished work and you’re racked with post-weekend kebab guilt.

(The struggle is real).

There’s only one thing for it: it’s time to run. Running is one of those core, cardio workouts that burns calories, makes you sweat and pushes you to your limits.

You know that today of all days is when you’ll work the hardest. The one day where failure isn’t an option and when you’ll go for it no matter what.

But when you want the ultimate training session, where do you focus your energy – the road or the treadmill?

Treadmills vs road running – so what’s the difference?

Treadmills are without a doubt, one of the toughest cardio machines at the gym. They’re great for raising your heart rate as well as working up a sweat and smashing through calories.

But those who’ve trained on a treadmill and then gone to run outside, will know that the two are not quite the same. If you run on a treadmill with no gradient set, then run at the same speed outside, you’ll instantly find running outside more difficult.

This is because on a treadmill, the belt moves for you and there is no wind resistance. Outside, your body has to do all the work – making it much harder. That’s why many people believe running outside is the only way to go.

BUT! before you go donning your GPS gadget and high-vis vest, there are lots of benefits to be had from each.

Treadmills – THE PROS

Close up of trainers on the treadmill person walking

Training – treadmills make very handy training tools. You can set your programme, up your speed and keep track of your intervals easily.

Resistance – taking the gradient up will increase your resistance making it much more like road running. The higher the gradient, the harder you’ll need to work – helping you to raise your heart rate and build strength in your key running muscles.

Timing – you know when your eyes are bigger than your stomach? Just like that time when you thought you could eat an entire roast chicken, we’ve all mapped out a run that’s been way too long to complete. Luckily, when we’ve exhausted our energy levels, the treadmill is just a few steps away from the snack machine I mean lockers.

Safety – not all of us have the luxury of running through flower dappled meadows while we chase the sunset when we train. Treadmills are kept indoors where it’s safe and you know you can put your headphones in without having to worry about being on your own in the dark.

Weather – running in the rain can be really refreshing but running on ice is usually not. If the pavements are covered in hardened snow, it’s best not to take the ‘hopefully I won’t sprain my ankle’ approach to training, and just head to the gym instead.

Joints – using a treadmill helps lower the impact of running on your joints. Regularly running on concrete can be hardwearing on your knees, back and hips so mixing things up can help keep everything in working order.

Running outside – THE PROS

Person running outside in the rain

Varied terrain – running outside will mean taking on a range of conditions. And whether it’s muddy tracks, streams and fields you’re running across, or pavements, parks and puddles, varying the pace and intensity will do wonders for your training.

Good for the mind – after a long day in the office, running outside can be much more stimulating than staring at the treadmill. Taking in nature is very relaxing and helps relieve stress – and not only that, you’ll be able to actually see the distance you’ve run which can be really rewarding.

Plan a route and stick to it – sometimes climbing off a treadmill in favour of TV and crisps can be far too tempting. If you know you can go the distance, then running outside can force you to get out and get going.

Training for a race – if you’re training for a specific event, then running outside is a great way of getting used to different weather types as well as running with people. Get involved with the local Park Run and start tracking your times to help you run more competitively.

Social running – running clubs don’t happen in gyms. They are great for helping you train and are brilliant socially too. There are lots of local groups for all different abilities dotted around the country – a quick internet search will find you your local club.

Gets you away from the gym – the gym can be great but sometimes it can be all too much. Many of us have experienced queuing for a treadmill which is being taken up by someone walking slowly while looking at their phone. Save time (as well as stress) and head outside for a much more fulfilling experience.