serious running: trail running, races, shoe reviews

Is Treadmill Running a good Work Out?

posted by Chris Barber

treadmill-runningI’ve never been a fan of running on the treadmill.  Maybe if they had a “trail” setting on it; that would be pretty sweet. I miss the outdoors when running on the treadmill; even if the weather is less than perfect, I miss it.  I also don’t get the feeling of accomplishment at the end of a treadmill workout, probably because I never go anywhere.  More importantly, I don’t think I get as good of a work out running on a treadmill and don’t think the distance tracking is accurate.

One reason that treadmill running seems easier than trail running outside is that there is no air resistance.  You may think that air resistance isn’t that big of a deal, but some runners can experience a 10%  harder run when running outside vs. inside.  Try running behind your buddy next time; the larger the buddy, the more you’ll be able to feel the difference.  Drafting is an important part of competitive trail running for a reason.  Wind resistance matters.

The problem with treadmills is that there is no variation in running surfaces.  The ability to maneuver branches, rocks, roots, and sharp turns is key to being a successful trail runner.  Not only does treadmill running not improve those skills, it can diminish them as runners become more complacent.  Treadmill runners tend to develop a more relaxed manner of running, trail runners need to be aggressive.

The thing that I like least about treadmill running is that it’s inside.  I don’t like to watch tv when I run.  I don’t like to listen to a Pandora “running” station.  I definitely don’t read a magazine when running.  I like to go on an adventure.  I like not knowing what is coming around the corner.  I like not knowing exactly how far or how difficult my run will be, but I am a risk lover.  There is something to be said for the consistency of treadmill running; and it will probably be said by someone who is risk adverse.

I’ve always lived somewhere I can run outside all year long, but treadmill running can be a good substitute if you absolutely can not run outside.  In addition, treadmill running can help runners that need a little more assistance in training keep a consistent pace and run accurate tempo runs.  In addition, some runners like to do another activity when running; such multitaskers.  Overall though, if you’re a treadmill runner, jump off sometime and concentrate on the trails!


  1. Brian Ansley says:

    I agree with you Chris. I definitely prefer running outside for all the same reasons. The belt on the treadmill also provides assistance to the runner, which can alter your performance when it comes time to running outside. Thanks for the post.


  2. Sock Runner says:

    I definitely believe that running should be an activity experienced outside the comforts of your home. Plus, there’s nothing better than staying fit and communing with the ground and your feet.

  3. Brian Ansley says:

    Minimalist running. That’s what I’m talking about Sock Runner!