There is just so much more to look at and think about when you're running outside, thanks to the changing scenery. If you're in a park, the people watching alone can keep you entertained for miles. Many outdoor runners have no qualms about running without their iPods or external motivation sources because the scenery alone is enough to entertain them. And by varying your route regularly, it never gets boring. Plus, you can run outdoors in a purposeful way: to the bank, to the post office, or to work, while a treadmill run will always be running in place.
Tips: Whether you're running inside or out, run with a buddy! That always makes the time fly.
FunctionalityEven with the programs, feedback and incline changes, treadmill running is a stationary movement on a motorized belt. No matter how much you enjoy it, it's kind of a one-hit wonder. The best workouts will improve your ability to do everyday things—like play with your kids or get to first base faster in that softball game. While treadmill running is a fantastic workout and will improve your fitness level, it doesn't mimic how you will walk or run in a real-life situation. Even a seasoned treadmill runner in great shape will have a harder time running the same speed or distance when outdoors—because outdoor running is more challenging and uses your body differently. On the flipside, the general safety and stability of a treadmill will allow you to do lateral movements and even backwards walking, which are great ways to cross-train that you might not attempt outdoors.
Running outdoors is extremely functional. Even when you think you're running on flat ground, the ground is never completely flat. This means your foot, leg and core muscles are constantly making small adjustments to contend with the varying surfaces. These small muscle movements are important for your coordination, balance and ability to do everyday things. It may not sound significant, but it really makes a difference: The more muscles you can recruit in any given movement, the more calories you will burn and fitness you will build.
Tips: If you're a hardcore treadmill runner, do not be afraid to take that run outdoors occasionally. Even if you can't run as far as you can on the treadmill, know that you're doing your body good by running outside. But outdoor runners shouldn't fear that the treadmill will decrease their fitness level. As long as you're getting a balance of outdoor running, you're golden.
Difficulty LevelTreadmill workouts are generally less intense than outdoor workouts. By using a treadmill instead of running on outdoor terrain, you utilize fewer muscle fibers, coordination, and balance and the belt actually helps propel you forward so that you do less work. In addition, there are handles for support (if needed), making a treadmill a great way for a beginner (or person with joint or balance issues) to get fit. But not every treadmill workout has to be easy. By bumping up the incline, you'll counteract that propelling motion of the belt and by increasing your speed, you can get a great workout. Ultimately, treadmills offer a lot of variety in difficulty level.