Running Outside Vs Running on a Treadmill, Revisited

I’m a diehard runner and its my everything for physical and mental well being. I’ve been faithful to running outside for over 9 years, but prior I was a treadmill runner almost exclusively. Let’s revisit this age-old debate!


When I first started running, I mostly ran outside for field hockey and track. That all changed as I quickly fell in love with running. During my offseason I ran on the treadmill exclusively. It became my go to because it was much more approachable for me and I could run consistently year-round. Both activities are quite different, despite sharing a common name. Its time to revisit this old fitness debate, running outside versus running on a treadmill.

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For years I ran five miles a day on the treadmill, with little exception. I loved how I could easily up my pace to push myself harder, as well as consistently get a good workout and sweat in. After running on the treadmill for several years, I embraced interval training. This pushed me more than I realized and was a tremendous alternative to regular treadmill running. Then came my major shift.

Like most activities, running on the treadmill can get stale. I found myself getting complacent and searching for alternatives. Even though I was able to up my pace and change the incline, I didn’t always do this. Nor did it make a difference towards my personal enjoyment. It wasn’t until I was forced to take a prolonged break from running that I realized there was an alternative. Treadmill running was only one kind of running and it was quite limited and monotonous.

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Being unable to run showed me how little I missed my treadmill. My eyes were finally opened to the joys of running outside and I realized that if I was going to push myself back into running, I needed to have fun doing it. Why not switch to outside runs? I was basically starting from scratch. A huge goal of mine was to be able to just run. No limits, no rules, no minimums or maximums or predetermined routes. Just running. Once I embraced this goal and embraced running outside, my running flourished.

Running outside is tough because unlike the treadmill, there are a lot of unforeseen variables. Temperature, wind, hills, traffic, people, and your own will to keep going are constantly changing. There is also that nagging feeling in the back of your mind that, if you are like me, you could effortlessly run five miles on the treadmill. Yet running five miles outside is extremely different and much harder and more challenging.


Me running through the hills of CT while visiting family.


I needed to accept the fact that running on the treadmill is easier than running outside, as well as change my approach. Thriving off the challenge is crucial and you can’t treat these two activities the same. I was completely sore running outside and it took a long time for that soreness to subside. It’s funny because as I ran more, different parts of my body would get sore. Over time that lessened as I got stronger, but woah. Its a shock at first.

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There are amazing benefits to running, inside or out. If your only access to running is via a treadmill, then keep it up and do that. Keep running, change the incline, and learn to embrace intervals. Make it fun and challenging. If you have the option to get outside, then I highly recommend doing it. Start with lower miles to avoid burnout and know that running outside is an experience that changes over time. Parts get easier while other moments get challenging.


I love running and no matter where I go, I make sure I go running. That is how I’m able to see all running as beneficial. The last 10 years of my life is when I truly embraced running outside and achieved that nagging goal I had every year. Revisiting this debate reminded me that how you run is personal. Running outside and running on a treadmill are extremely different, but both are great ways to exercise!


Meet Your Runner:

Mandi Mellen is Lead Editor, Writer, and Co-Owner of BuzzChomp. She’s an acclaimed Actor, Director and Producer. Visit M Square Productions for her film work, or get lost in her comedy on Pillow Talk TV. You can follow her on TikTok, Twitter and Instagram.

Photo Credits to Yours Truly

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