Treadmill vs Track

I’ve been pondering this post over in my mind the last few days after hearing from people who prefer the great outdoors; I decided to examine my running environment, so to speak.  Since I’ve started running, I’ve pretty much been practicing on a treadmill. Cold winter months combined with the need for the privacy in the employee gym, pretty much kept me chained to the treadmill. The employee gym is usually empty when I go except for one other person every now and then. If I hit the time just right, I can have the whole place to myself. The lure of not being embarrassed by a slow gait or short runs made it the ideal place to “practice” my running.

What I found, is that treadmill running and running on the street or track are so totally different. On the treadmill  I found that I kept my body rigid in order to stay within the confines of the two metal bars.  The other downside of the treadmill is that there was no “off in a distance.” I ran until I got tired and stopped to walk.  This false sense of security made the “great outdoors” a scary thing reserved for 5K races and other marathons.

Joining Walk-to-Run a couple of weeks ago was the first time that I had dedicated longer runs outside doing something other than a race. I found the experience to be challenging, if not a little daunting.  After that, I started to do at least one run outdoors at least once a week.  The problem was that I still didn’t want to run on the parkway with the many other runners and watched by the drivers whizzing by at sixty miles per hour. 

Last week, I found the perfect solution, a school track.  It seems that one of the Jr. High outdoor tracks is a favorite for runners and walkers.  The best thing is that no one seems to notice when I get tired and feel the need to pull up to a walk. 

Even though my time has improved the last two times out, I’m still experiencing the problem of relaxing my body to run without running with the “treadmill gait” where I hold my body rigid despite the absence of the two bars.  I’m also learning not to psych myself out, before I get started on the wide open space. So thank you to everyone who sang the praises of running outdoors instead of on a treadmill.  All in all, I’m starting to enjoy my running experience outdoors despite the impending summer heat waves.


5 thoughts on “Treadmill vs Track

  1. I have trouble with adjusting to the different inclines outside. My road is about 1/3 mile straight but it has a pretty good incline on it. I can’t run up it yet. I have successfully jogged part of it. I found out how important it is to adjust to the different inclines when I ran in my 1st & so far only 5K. I need to run outside more than I do.


    1. Shannon, I made the switch to outside as well. For a long time I “ran” on a treadmill, then when it came time to run outside, I literally froze without the numbers on the screen in front of me…and then the inclines. YIKES. I joined a six week program Walk to Run and all they did were inclines. I’m not much better at them, but I’m definitely less scared 🙂 Let me know how your switch to more outdoors goes.


  2. Great! Remember to alternate between clockwise and counterclockwise on the track on different days so that you aren’t always making right turns or left turns.


    1. You know, I’ve never thought of that, but it does make a lot of sense. I noticed that our Walk-to-Run instructor has us running the trail one way one week and the opposite way the next, probably for that very reason, but she never actually said it. Thanks for the advice!


  3. I prefer outdoors because of the ebb and flow of running (I’m not running at a constant pace the entire time) and because I don’t have to constantly adjust the treadmill in order to try and find the pace I want or slow it down for a few seconds just to increase it again. Although right now if I could I would go out on a treadmill just because its been so darn hot out lately!


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