Road vs. Treadmill

Many runners debate the question, "should I train on a treadmill or on the road?" Both have benefits and limitations. Your decision will be based on what's best for you physically, along with your lifestyle. Below are a few things to consider when making your decision.

Road Running

  • Cheap – All you need is a good pair of shoes and out the door you go.
  • Calorie burning – You will burn more calories due to wind resistance and the variety of surfaces and gradients.
  • Entire body workout – Running on a variety of surfaces helps strengthen your entire body since it has to adjust constantly.
  • Preparedness – Ninety-eight percent of running events will be on a road and you will need to train in all weather and terrain elements to prepare for race day.
  • Weather reliant – When the weather is very cold, raining, snowing, icy or extremely windy, it is difficult to run outside.
  • Physical impact – The constant pounding on cement has a greater impact on bones and joints, which can lead to injury.

Treadmill Running

  • Easy to monitor – You can choose your own pace and gradient which is very consistent. It is easy to chart your progress during tempo runs and speed work.
  • Reliable surface.
  • No external factors – Weather and other outdoor factors do not hinder your decision to run.
  • Better for your joints since there is less impact.
  • Injuries – Chance of injuries increases with frequent use.
  • The treadmill does most of the work to pull your leg through, causing your hamstrings to work less. Weaker hamstrings can cause knee injuries.
  • Many treadmills have a narrow deck, which can cause the step of your foot to cross the midline of your body, putting more stress on the outside of your knee.
  • More likely to have IT band problems or stress fractures.

In short, treadmill running can complement your road running if it's used wisely and not exclusively. Consider treadmill running as a training option, but do not do all of your training on a treadmill. Mentally, you need to get on the road and prepare yourself for race day elements. The closer you get to race day, the more you need to work on the specifics you will be experiencing that day. The choices you make will create a healthier you.

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