The Pros & Cons of Treadmill Running
Even if the majority of the miles you log are outside, there are still plenty of reasons to go for a run on a treadmill. Whether inversion, cold temperatures, or short days keep you inside in winter, treadmill training can be a solution to skipping outdoor workouts. Decide if it’s for you by reading some perks and pitfalls of running inside.
Pros of Treadmill Running
- Improved cushioning. Treadmills have more “give” than hard concrete or asphalt surfaces. This can be helpful for those recovering from an injury or those prone to plantar fasciitis.
- Prevent falls. Snow can increase the risk of slipping and falling, making a snowy day a great day for a treadmill run.
Safety. Treadmills keep you safe from traffic, and you can do your runs late at night or early in the morning without worrying about it being dark outside.
- Access to clean air. Poor air quality or allergies drive people indoors. Many Red Air days have already occurred in Utah, and training indoors is a great way to protect your lungs from these pollutants.
- Run a steady pace easily. One thing I like about treadmill running is that you can set a pace and zone out. Your only job is to maintain that pace and hold it. It can also help develop more consistent pacing in running. If you struggle with this, give a treadmill tempo workout a try. Treadmill or “hamster wheel” running, as some people call it, can also improve cadence.
- Easier bathroom breaks. Another good thing about treadmill running is there’s a bathroom close by. I have had many athletes with this concern and have suggested treadmill running for them.
- Watch a movie while you run. Another plus to treadmill running that I’ve seen from my mother-in-law is the ability to listen to audiobooks, podcasts, and read or watch movies to distract yourself and make the time go faster.
Cons of Treadmill Running
- Not being outside. For me, the number one con for treadmill use is not being outdoors. I am a total nature girl and enjoy being outdoors. Although I am not a fan of the cold, I will get out and run in it, because you get warm when you run (well, mostly). When I run indoors I tend to sweat because there’s no cool air moving past me and I often run with a visor to help keep sweat out of my eyes.
- People watching you. Another con is people paying too much attention to your workout at the gym. On occasion I’ve seen the person on the treadmill next to me glance over and one-up my effort, like we are racing or something. This always makes me chuckle, but there is no laughter when they realize that was only my warm up! Either way, I’ not there to compete with others, I just want to do my workout. I’m not always up for attention, so I usually find a less-visible treadmill so I can just do my thing.
- Unnatural movement. Another disadvantage to treadmill running is that the movement is not the same. It’s not “natural” some say. I agree. I find that I shorten my stride so I don’t step on the front of the treadmill. The treadmill also pulls your leg back for you, not allowing you to use the glutes, hamstrings, and stabilizing muscles in the same way. This can lead to your muscles developing differently than they would outdoors.
- Accuracy issues. I often notice that the pacing is different on the indoor treadmills for the effort so I am not sure how accurate it is. Different treadmills spit out different numbers, and while they’re a good ballpark figure, knowing they’re not completely accurate can be bothersome.
- Time goes by slowly. Because the numbers, accurate or not, are staring at me in the face I often look at them and find myself “watching time.” You know what they say about watching a pot of water boil? Yep, time goes slowly when you watch it. Maybe this is what contributes to the boredom for some and the reason some call it the “dreadmill.”
In my opinion, both indoor treadmill running and running on the roads are beneficial. It’s wise to do a bit of both, but focus mostly outdoor running because it’s more natural. Go indoors if you need some mental work, want to work on pace/cadence a little bit, or if the air quality is poor or the weather horrible. Certainly a fall is not going to be good for your running! Either way the treadmill can be a useful training tool, just work to create balance.