Whether you love or hate it, the treadmill is a practical training device during Canadian winters, but should you still be using the treadmill in the summer? And does it have the same benefit as running outdoors?
A 2020 study in the Journal of Sports Medicine found that running outside is better for your mental health than running on a treadmill. When running outdoors, you naturally get more fresh air and you aren’t forced to run in one spot. Research also found that biomechanically, the benefits of the treadmill and outdoor running are surprisingly similar.
One of the kinematic differences between the two is in your footstrike. The outdoors simulates a race-day environment and strengthens your footstrike, which will develop more power and efficiency on each stride. But one benefit of the treadmill is its softer surface, which won’t take as much of a toll on your body.
Both treadmills and outdoor running have their benefits. Treadmill running is convenient, low-impact and much more precise but comes with a higher cost. Running outdoors can often feel more engaging and social and has a cheaper overall entrance cost, but there is potential for bad weather or injuries.
Most people prefer to run outdoors as much as possible, but heading indoors can be your best option in warmer conditions. If you have speedwork scheduled for a warm day, try running in the morning or evening when it is cooler. If you can’t get outside during those times,bring water or find some time for the treadmill.
The treadmill allows you to control your pace better than running outside, which may be beneficial for speedwork (or for easy days when you don’t want to exceed a certain speed or level of effort).
To sum up, you do not need to decide between running on the treadmill vs. outside in the summer. Treadmills do not work your body the same way as running outdoors, but that does not mean one is better than the other. Using a combination of both ensures you will always manage to fit a run into your schedule.