Almost always when I go to the gym whether it is here at Penn State or at home I start with the same thing. I warm up with at least ten minutes on the treadmill before I work out. However while I have been here at Penn State I have yet to run outside. I feel this is due to one of two reasons. The density of the population here, and the troubles that amount of people would have on going for a run. When I am at home, and it is a nice day out there is nothing better than going for a run around my block. It clears my head of anything that may be going on and just allows me to be free. The question of running on a treadmill as opposed to running outside is one that I have thought about sometimes but never investigated. That is why I decided to look into the two different ways of running, and the differences between the two.
First off, it is important to acknowledge the distinct differences between running on a treadmill vs running outside. These differences span throughout all different areas of the running spectrum, and can show a runner the explicit benefits and possible drawbacks of using either of these methods of cardio-exercise.
One difference between the two different styles of running is the amount of energy exerted while doing the two respectively. According to a study done by the University of Exter runners who run outside as opposed to running on a treadmill spend extra effort running due to wind resistance and other environmental and weather factors that you do not get while running inside on a treadmill (NCBI). To account for that discrepancy, runners who use a treadmill can increase the incline of the treadmill by a one percent gradient to exert the amount of energy they would running the same speed outdoors (BBC).
Another difference between the two would be the speed at which the runners are running while exercising. According to a study done in Singapore runners have an unmatched perception of speech while running on a treadmill and overground. The study involved twenty-one participants who ran for three minutes at a preferred speed on an overground track, immediately after they completed a three minute run on a treadmill before finishing up with another three minute run outdoors overground. During their run on the treadmill the speed on the treadmill screen was blocked from the runners vision. The objective was for the runner to run at the same speed or relatively the same as the speed they chose for the outdoor run, and the speed they would run for their final outdoor run. The study found that the runners had a different perception of speed when running outdoors and on treadmills respectively. According to the article the average speed of the first outdoor run was .78 meters per second, the average speed of the treadmill run was .62 meters per second, the average speed on the third and final run was .74 meters per second. This unmatched perception is due in part to an absence of normal visual inputs that you usually get from running outdoors that are not available to a runner on a treadmill, this causes a difference between observed and expected optic flow (NCBI). Optic flow is defined as the motion of all the surface elements in the visual world (PC). This could present difficulties for runners if they are trying to train at a certain speed or intensity.
According to an article on runnersworld.com, running on a treadmill may be in someways a little easier than running in the elements outdoors. This is because the treadmill belt assists in leg turnover which allows the runner to run at a faster clip with less resistance. This is also a reasonable explanation for why runners often find trouble correlating their running speed on the ground to their running speed on a treadmill. On the other hand according to the same article, running on a treadmill may be beneficial in that it provides less wear and tear on your body. The article states that some soft tissue “hardening” that occurs normally while running outside on pavement in a street or on a sidewalk does not occur as often while running on a treadmill. This is because the treadmill belt is a lot more forgiving than an outdoor surface (Runners World).
Overall the two types of running are different in many ways, but also similar in some too. Each have their own pros and cons. It is really a personal preference based on how heavy you want to train, run or exercise as a runner. Additionally, your decision may come down to how your body is made up and how one form suits you best. Personally I enjoy running outdoors a little better because of the added scenery, and the elements.