Treadmil Vs. Road Running - distilled knowledge from the world wide web



This is often wondered by many people - which is better for a runner? Now common sense tells me that to do well in a race you have to practice in race conditions - on a road in other words , however the treadmill has some benefits

The conclusion I have is that it is a personal choice which is better - both have good and bad points. I have personally trained nearly exclusively for a year on a treadmill completing 2 marathons in that time, and also exclusively on the roads, also completing marathons. If the work out on either is good then you can do anything

Physically treadmill running is easier

I have read a few studies (proper scientific ones that measure oxygen use and things like that) and the results suggest that road running is about 10% harder than a treadmill. To keep the sums easy that means that if you want to have the same effect as a running at 10km/h on the road you need to put the treadmill at 11km/h (see I like easy sums). This is based on what is called the VO2 - or how much oxygen you use as you exercise, the more you use the harder you are working. This 10% figure is mostly accounted for by:.
The treadmill is flat - roads go up and down Wind resistance - this counts for a large difference. The treadmill surface is springy and that bounces you back when you land on it (but also reduces the stress on your body) - returning some of your energy for the next stride. Roads arn't so springy so are harder (cross country harder again - no natural spring when you sink in a puddle) (Don't know if you remember that the Chinese Olympics has lots of track records broken - the track was more springy than other years). The treadmill alters the running style a bit as well, having a longer stride and leaving the foot longer on the belt.

That's the physical side. The mental side of course is that it can be boring on a treadmill (the worst one I have been on was placed facing a wall - I can run a 10k, maybe a half marathon, race tomorrow no problem, but I was off that one before I ran a mile!). Treadmills are boring and there is no push to keep you going. On a road you can spot things in the distance and think "I'll just run to there" or see a runner to catch up in the distance - more things to concentrate on.

You can repeat a treadmill run anywhere but different weather makes every outside run different, and you can set the exact work out that you want on the treadmill (such as hills, speed, distance and time). On the road you take pot luck with the terrain and weather

Both the treadmill and road running can give you the following benefits:
Reduces the amount of stored energy in the body (body fat)
Improves the Cardiovascular system and circulation, which can reduce heart disease
Strengthens and tones the leg and core muscles
Increases bone density, reducing the risk of osteoporosis
Aids the digestive process
Improves immune function
Improves mood and reduces stress by releasing endorphins in the brain
(Although a lot of exercises will also do this too)

Good points for a treadmill then (better than road running):
You can repeat the workout exactly week to week Constant environment, heat, humidity, no rain, every trip to the treadmill wil be pretty similar conditions Ideal running temperature - if you can control the treadmills environments you can set it up in perfect running temperature - or one to suit your next race You can run at any time of the day or night (when you have access to the treadmill) You can run in any weather (for example when the paths are icy) Treadmill users tend to go to the gym and so can use other cardiovascular training machines such as cycles, rowers, etc.. and perhaps a pool or sauna to relax in afterwards You can set the exact work out that you want - say a 2 mile run or 20 minute run You can set the exact pace you want and stick to it The "road" is slightly sprung and easier on your joints Treadmill is inside and warm You can watch the TV on a treadmill making better use of your time (watch Eastenders and do a half hour run at the same time!) You don't have to stop for road junctions Treadmill programmes can target certain areas of your fitness as you require such as 'fat burning' etc Easier on your joints than a road Treadmill training can be very intense and although isn't exactly the same as road running it can be used to improve lactic acid tolerance (the waste that builds up in the muscles with running - muscles get used to dealing with it and you recover quicker) and VO2mx levels (how well your body uses the oxygen it gets in the lungs) Information - OK apart from wearing a GPS watch the treadmill tells you everything you need to know

Road running (better than treadmill):
Its harder on your muscles but gives you a better workout at the same speed There is a lot of variety outside - you can vary your route easily and the road surface (Road, track, grass, sand...) As you run you can set goals such as running to the next road junction, catching up another runner etc. You Have to stop for road junctions and that gives you a quick breather You can avoid the TV for half an hour or more All races are outside and all social running is outside making outdoor running a more social event You see a lot of interesting things running - you go further than you would normally walk but are going slower than you would in a car letting you see more things Its a great way to explore an area - try running down every road within a half hour run distance from your house over a few runs It stimulates the brain as you go (treadmills can be boring) You can run anywhere and only need to buy trainers, Shorts and a T Shirt - no gym or expensive kit Weather conditions - a boost to your mental health running in nice weather (with sun cream and drinking water), and the pure enjoyment of running through the park in fresh falling snow Cross country runs and hill runs are fun and muddy, wet and cold, but great!! Cost - apart from the basic kit, it is free! and available to run outside anytime of the day

But at the end of the day, it is a personal choice

One final conclusion is that the more you read about which is better the more opinions you read and not hard facts. There have been a few studies to quantify which is better (put it into numbers), such as finding that the treadmill is 10% easier, but apart from them the rest is opinions. If you are happy running on either then do it