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What's the Difference Between Running on a Treadmill and Running Outside?

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Updated May 23, 2014

Trail running amongst green rolling hills.
Jordan Siemens/Iconica/Getty Images Runner Outdoors
Janie Airey / Getty Images

Question: What's the Difference Between Running on a Treadmill and Running Outside?

"Is running on a treadmill easier than running outside?"

Answer: Running on a treadmill feels somewhat easier physically because the ground is being pulled underneath your feet and there's no wind resistance. Running outside demands more from your body because you're propelling your body forward stride for stride. As a result, many runners find that they experience calf muscle pain, shin splints, and other issues when they run outside after exclusively running on a treadmill for a long period of time.

Mentally, you may have a tougher time dealing with the monotony of the treadmill. (Here are some tricks for beating boredom on the treadmill.) Some runners think it's easier to distract themselves when running outside.

Of course, there are some benefits of treadmill running. Treadmills are a much better option than outdoor running when the conditions (bad weather, darkness) are dangerous. Many treadmills are padded, making them a good option if you're overweight or are injury-prone (especially with knee issues) and want to decrease the impact.

The bottom line: If you're training for a specific outdoor race, try to train outside as much as possible to get prepared for race conditions. If you're doing a lot of treadmill running, you can better simulate outdoor running by setting your treadmill at 1% incline.

More: Do I Burn More Calories Running Outside?

More FAQs for Beginner Runners:

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