Treadmill vs. Outdoors

Up until my last minor injury (shin splints), I would routinely run on a treadmill at the gym for at least one of my running workouts each week. It was mainly for convenience, but I could also keep close tabs on my pace and pass the time while watching SportsCenter.

Once I got shin splints, I started wondering if the treadmill had anything to do with the throbbing that was coming from my lower leg every time I finished running. After looking on the internet, fully expecting to find out how bad treadmills were for your joints, bones and muscles…turns out that the main cause of the shin splints was worn-out shoes. It was still enough to keep me off of the machine ever since.

So what are the real differences between running on a treadmill and running outside?
There is a slight decrease in energy expenditure when running on a treadmill because of the lack of wind resistance and because the treadmill belt does propel you along. To make a treadmill workout closer to outdoor exercise, I’ve always heard that you have to raise the treadmill incline to 1%.

I have no scientific proof to back this up, but in my experience, you will be much more prepared for the demands on your muscles and joints on race day if you run outdoors during training. Can you practice running downhill on a treadmill? How about turning, or running around obstacles? Nope. It’s just straight, flat running. Boo! Plus, it’s beautiful outside…God created this world for us to enjoy…so go enjoy it!

Something else to keep in mind when running outdoors is the surface that you are running on. Sometimes it’s necessary to run on sidewalks, but avoid it if at all possible. Asphalt is by far the better choice. It’s 10 times “softer” than concrete, and that makes a big difference in energy dissipation and shock absorption. If most of your running is on concrete, I would put that at or near the top of the list of suspects for recurring injuries. You would be much better off running on grass or dirt alongside the concrete, if you have that option and don’t mind having grass-stained shoes!

50 minutes of spin (around 17 miles)
45 minutes of weights (chest, triceps, abs)

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