Treadmill running vs outdoors: I'm on Week... - Couch to 5K

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Treadmill running vs outdoors

PotterBook profile image

I'm on Week 6, Day 2... and so far all but one of my runs have been on my trusty treadmill.  The one and only run I did outside, was Week 2, day 3. And it KILLED me.  Running outside seems so much harder than the treadmill, and since I tend to run late in the evening, and it's just so cold out this Spring, and there is still snow on the ground.... I just stick with the treadmill.

My question is.. Anyone ever transition from Treadmill to outside runner? Is there anything I can do to help me simulate the outside run while still inside? I'm worried about my 5K which I'm running in May, if I don't get out of the house soon that I wont be prepared even after completing the C25K program.

14 Replies
Slowstart profile image

Outside running is "different" to running on a treadmill, but I'm not sure if I agree with it being "harder". 

I had a treadmill for about 4 years and never progressed past 20 minutes as I got bored, would stop for loo breaks, drinks, phone calls, any excuse I could come up with really (hadn't discovered this program at the time).  

I started running outside as I wanted to get fitter and had to exercise my dog, so joined the two activities together. Running outside was a revelation, there was so much more to think about and keep me entertained. On the treadmill the belt gives you some forward motion that you have to provide for yourself when outdoor running, so that was different, but the actual run was so much better. I would say go outside and try a few runs, then see what you prefer. My bet is on your treadmill becoming a clothes horse very quickly!

mfamilias profile image

The only time I tried running on a treadmill, I fell off it :) If you are worried about not being ready in time, there is only one thing to do... bite the bullet and get out there! We'll all be here to applaud you when you get back, but go for it, now. Week 2 was light years ago - you've practically finished week six, you've improved no end so believe in yourself and get out there. You'll be just another nutter in trainers for most people, and you'll get a real kick out of finally doing it. Keep us posted!

skysue16 profile image

Firstly, very well done for getting to week 6 - brilliant. My first two weeks were outside on rough forest tracks and wintry weather and I found it hard. Then in January our local community gym opened! It was a luxury to to run indoors and I found that I began to improve and found it easier. However with improved weather I began to run outside again and although it was hard, particularly the undulating parts, I persevered and graduated Easter weekend. My advice would be choose a nice day, find a mostly flat route and enjoy! I use the treadmill on very windy or wet days but increase the 'incline' to simulate the hilly bits outside - I certainly notice it on my legs! I am also hoping to do a 5k race in May. Best of luck to you. 

John_W profile image


To answer a few of your questions:

- yes, loads of people here have made that transition, including me. I did the whole program on the treadmill and then ran outside for the 1st time in 20 years.

- the accepted wisdom is to set the incline on the treadmill to 1% to get the same level of difficulty.

- remember, that the ground isn't moving underneath you , so isn't propelling you forward and there's the huge factor of the air/wind resistance outdoors which isn't a factor indoors.

So, set incline to 1% and off you go :-)

Hope that helps,

Good luck!


harveyemm profile image

I trained on a treadmill over the winter and now with the light mornings have started running outdoors.

It is a bit different and I found the first 2 runs a bit odd.  This is because on the treadmill it is easy to set the speed whereas outdoors I have to manage the speed myself.  I tend to naturally run faster outdoors and therefore the runs are harder.

Could this be why you found the run harder? Perhaps you were running at a faster pace.

I've got used to it now after about a week. I don't think you will be less fit using the treadmill---I've got fitter if anything.

Good luck with the 5K--I'm sure you will be fine.

open all the doors and windows, plunge your hands into a bowl of icewater before you start and get someone to randomly lob lumps of dogpoo onto the front of the treadmill every now and then.

oh, and deliberately stop 60 meters or so before yu are supposed to finish, then curse and jump back on again.

secan profile image
secanGraduate in reply to Rignold

Now that Spring has arrived (or so they say), it might also be worth to randomly swallow an insect or two.

It should even be in line with your paleo-diet... ;P

Rignold profile image
Rignold in reply to secan

And play some helicopter sound effects at full volume on your stereo.

I have done week 1 & 2 out doors but am thinking of switching to treadmill as I am struggling outside. My legs are suffering badly. Reading your post, I think it may be easier to switch to indoor until my legs can cope. Comments please...

PotterBook profile image
PotterBookGraduate in reply to Nuddles

I'm with you. I'd rather do it inside until I complete week 7.. and then maybe I'll head out once I know I can do 25 minutes a few times.  Good luck to you!

Nuddles profile image
Nuddles in reply to PotterBook

Thanks. I will probably do one more run outside as I don't really like the gym environment. If I still suffer then off to the gym for a week and see how that goes. 

Kathleen73 profile image
Kathleen73 in reply to Nuddles

Hi I am 73 and just started on my second week On a treadmill. I don’t think I could run outside. No confidence. I fell when out walking a couple of years ago and broke 2ribs badly and so this year I bought a second hand treadmill(it’s huge). But I am so surprised how I am enjoying it. I have always attended a gym but have not run seriously for over 25 years. Hence a 2 stone weight gain. So here’s hoping I can get there. Good luck and keep going Kind regards. Kath

rmnsuk profile image

I did all but the last run on the treadmill, then decided to graduate at parkrun. Running outside was different but not harder. It took a couple of runs to get used to pacing and avoiding the dog poo etc. Go out and run SLOWLY.

I’m running outside and after a torrential downpour run last week I “treated” myself to a treadmill run. I found it SO hard! I seemed to be trying to run faster than normal but the distance was nowhere near what strava tells me I run in the same time. Plus even with the rugby on in he background I was bored bored bored. Back to running outdoors for me, I think when I feel the breeze and the fresh air and look at the trees and the sky it’s really gives me the motivation I need to enjoy it and keep going. Give it a try, you might just start enjoying it more :-)

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