Couch to 5K
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Is it better to run on a treadmill or outside?

have been running so far on a treadmill, only a beginner, about to do Wk 2, Run 3. I live in a village and am very nervous about being seen in public! am wondering whether to drive to a quiet spot and have a go, or if the treadmill is ok to do all the runs, is it very different from running outside? would like to know what others think,

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Interesting question Jenny and one that I'm curious about too as I also run on a treadmill and am about to start week 4.

I've done the past few weeks on a treadmill at home but for two weeks prior I ran outside in the highlands of Scotland so have experienced both.

If you take away the emotional aspect of outside running - fresh air, invigorating, nature etc etc - which is better? Is one better than the other, after all, running is running, but sometimes I feel I should be outside to be a "proper" runner.

I'm interested to see what others think :)


Outdoors you have to contend with an uneven surface, changes in terrain and direction (even slight slopes are challenging at first), wind resistance, variable temperatures and so on. The usual recommendation to get yourself working at the same 'effort level' is to put the treadmill on a slight incline all the time, and vary it sometimes.

Assuming you are planning on running outdoors when you complete your C25k training, I've read that you should try to do less than half your running on a treadmill, or alternatively allow yourself time to consolidate your running outside before you enter your first 5k! Or at least don't count on matching your personal best achieved on a treadmill....

All the studies I've seen show that running outdoors is better for health and mood but if the only time I had to run was after dark, I think I would do it indoors for safety.

Does it really matter if people see you running? I was hoping not to be spotted at first, but I don't mind now - every single person who has mentioned 'Oh I saw you running the other day' has been really impressed that I am being healthy, and a bit defensive that they don't exercise much themselves. I think it makes me less likely to drop out if I know that people will be asking 'How is the running going?'


hello jenny, I wouldn't know about the difference between treadmill and outside as I have not used one. I do however understand the nervousness of running in public, I'm starting wk4 today, the nervousness left me in week2 as I got my head around 'who really cares', this is about me not what others think and no one has laughed so far! I chose a quiet lane and run down and back but had to extend for some of the village as I started to cover more ground so I've waved at those I know a couple of times :)

being outside is liberating and the sense of distance as the hedges and trees pass, or you can see your markers on your route, like minuette says fresh air (although windy is hard work as it takes your breath lol) and birds, rabbits, hares, cows and horses or a few fields to look at, or coastline ( i was away with work and took the running kit with me) are all very distracting in a good way and your head is up

Think some more about having a go outside, if you have a go then you'll understand the difference and know what you want to do. If you are like most folks the being nervous will go after a few times out there

As a thought would the 5 min brisk walk take you to the edge of your village I wonder?


please get outside, at least once a week.

I did c25k this time last year & apart from 1 run the whole plan was done on a treadmill.

I would say there is definately a difference with running outside. perhaps a lot of it is mentally, but I do find it harder.

I have 2 teenagers who are on week 5 & we have a treadmill at home. I run with them outside for the first run of each week as I dont want them frightened of the outdoors aswell. now that they have 3 different runs for week 5 we have done each outside & they have repeated each run on the treadmill. just the big 20min run to go now :)

I find the different surfaces to run on & the outdoor inclines that creep up on you quite demanding & have even had to buy new trainers because of this. I am also frightened of dogs which doesnt help. but I wouldnt be in this position if I hadnt done all my running indoors.

we live along the coastline & I am determined that once we get week 5,r3 out of the way to try & run outside more.

I did feel very conscious before I left the house but have found that concentrating on each run is very distracting & you forget who else is around.

good luck & have fun :)


I had to smile slightly when I read your post, I hope you don't mind. For about the first six weeks I ran early in morning, long trousers, long sleeves, lots of layers, woolly hat (it was winter) and head phones to try to ensure I wasn't noticed.

After a while I guess I started to notice people not really giving two hoots about me :-) also a wise man on the old board (Andy? Random?) pointed out that if someone sees you huffing and puffing they have absolutely no way of knowing whether you have done 1k or 100k.

Personally even at wk1 run 1 treadmills drove me nuts and I needed the interest and variety of outside and enjoyed getting to know that little bit more about my town as I got used to its early morning routines normally hidden from me by my curtains.

So from a personal perspective I can only recommend it and you don't have to go out first time right through the shopping centre at lunch time in your Lycra, you can keep it really low key.


Having run both outside, and on a treadmill I can say for sure that they are different. It's harder work running outside, you have more to contend with; uneven surfaces, traffic, pedestrians, dogs, horses even on one memorable occasion. But it's easy enough to deal with, just slow down a bit.

The treadmill has it's advantages. For a geek like me, you get lots of numbers to play with. You can concentrate on form rather than worrying about tripping or running into a tree. So, I recommend, and use, a mixture of the two.

Ultimatly it doesn't really matter, as long as you keep running!


Thanks to all for the lovely and helpful advice, I have done w2 r3 this morning and think that I will try w3 r1 on the treadmill and then bite the bullet and go for the outdoors. It does get a bit boring in the gym and I am not really interested in the speed or the distance at this point so will just give it a try using the timings on the podcast. Definitely glad I didn't try it today as it has just rained all day here, so anyone running outside deserves big respect!


If I may add something to the little discussion. I'm an out door runner, because I don't have a treadmill. I used to have an exercise bike but cycled outdoors. Really a treadmill scares me and as greg syas the treadmill gives you the stats but I don't care - last run 4.53 km, ave speed 7 kph max speed 11 kph. Don't care about the stats at all ;).

Get out doors and screw the bystanders who don't know if you have run for 1 minute or 100 minutes. They are just jealous, and when you meet them in the butchers, the bakers or at church they will be well impressed.


ha ha good point B3any_Boy, have decided to go to an nearby reservoir that is quite flat on Thursday, then can set my timer to half time and run one way then turn round. will try the first run of Wk3 tomorrow, still cant imagine running for 5 mins let alone 20 but will keep running (and walking)!


Jenny, really don't worry about the 20 minutes and climb to 30 minutes. I was really cacking my pants prior to the run, and when I had completed it I was thinking what did I have to worry about. It is a good idea to get out and run in the fresh air. If this is your first time out, don't be dishearted, it is a completly different beast to a treadmill. I do it "al fresco" and I don't think I could do it indoors, as having to set the treadmill speed will do my head in. I don't think I run to a set rate so I'd probably end up on my bum!

Just enjoy the surronds, the music, I think week three is trees and hills lalala, and most importantly remember you need to walk before you can run.


Hello hope you dont mind me adding my bit. I did up to run 1 week 8 in the gym. Went outdoors after that and have only done one run indoors since. I LOVE running outdoors! It can be challenging what with variations in terrain/pavement etc and other people and dogs, but it is so much more fun and I get to exercise my dog at the same time!

I was very self conscious to start and still prefer running on quiet canal paths/up the woods (very challenging, have even bought trail running shoes for up the woods), but now find if I see people it reminds me to make sure my style/posture is good and I flash them a huge grin to show them what a "pro" I am (I am sure they arent fooled what with my beetroot coloured face!). Today a grey heron kept me company on the canal path for a few hundred feet and then a buzzard!

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they are different in many respect, it try to emulate outdoor running always have treadmill in slight incline (it will add a little difficulty as the floor resistance and wind will do... I am also self conscious and everyone else favourite run here is along the seafront, but way too many bars and layabouts there - i have found a lovely parkrun which is only family, dogs and runners...ideal! but still treadmill if cold or wet..


i am in week 8 with just 2 runs to go i am using a C25K app on my phone which i think is a bit more realistic in that it says 35 minutes for 5k. Up until week 6 all my runs were inside on a treadmill. Now I cant wait till the weekends and the opportunity to go outside. It is so much nicer, even the uneven ground I actually prefer. Inside i run a very sedate 6.2km/hr while outside even with the occasional small hill I average nearer 7. It is so much easier feeling you have gone somewhere, plus this weekend I ended up running my 5 minute cool down as I hadnt got back to where i needed to be and it just happened. If just cant wait till light evenings as dont like running alone in the dark and and during week cant go running till 8pm so have to do inside


this is very interesting. I did weeks one and two outdoors and have done 3 - 5 on treadmill - think I will alternate going forward


ran outside yesterday for the first time on my own & have decided that running downhill uses the same amount of effort as running on the treadmill. hill on the other hand are a completely different ball-game!

I enjoyed the outdoors as this is a new challenge for me & it has definately worked out my legs more than the treadmill does.

treadmill -v- outdoors?? outdoors!!


I think my out door run - well run is a bit ambitious! - was great fun, and once I got over the embarrassment of seeing people I know I did enjoy it, but it's definitely harder work. I like the idea of alternating and hoping the weather allows a bit more outside work! have completed Wk 3, so onwards and upwards! its interesting how many different speeds and distances everyone is doing, but running for even 3 mins is a big achievement!

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I've always run outside. Never been a member of gym so not used a treadmill. The only time I ever did was when I went to a shop to buy some running shoes and they put me a treadmill to assess my running style - and it made me feel sick ! Didn't like it one bit. I think being outside in the fresh air is good for the spirit too. I don't care what people think of me - for I'm out there doing something good for my body and soul and they're not !


On week 8, run 2. Today was my first time on the treadmill because I was traveling. Prefer outdoors but it was good to check time, speed and distance. Will push me harder outdoor next time...and it hurt my knees even though I had it on incline.


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