Running on a Treadmill vs. Running Outside

The Differences of running outside compared to running inside on a treadmill

Who am I?

I'm a slow runner, relatively un-athletic runner who enjoys running on the treadmill.  Might sound odd, but I have atopic dermatitis, a sun sensitivity that causes rashes on my skin if I don't slather with SunBlock.  So from a young age, I've learned to stay indoors.  Plus I'm a surgeon (my specialty is Botox); I am used to indoor life.  Thus, I have done most of my running on a treadmill, but once in a while I need to venture outside and run with the rest of the world - because I do enjoy going to races, and it is good to have a chance of scenery for me once in a while.  I have run semi-regularly for the past 2.5 years.  Before that I ran for about 3.5 years during my surgical residency, but that was 10+ years ago.  My wife, Dr. Tammy Wu (Plastic Surgeon) and I are title sponsors of the Surgical Artistry Modesto Marathon.  Standard Disclaimer:  I am not a doctor online.  I don't know enough to give out information over the internet without seeing a patient in person.  Nothing here is meant to be expert doctor opinion.  Just the opinion of a slow runner who enjoys running.  Yes I am slow.  I can be found running at 4.5 miles per hour.  (mph conversion to pace chart)

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Looking for a California Marathon to run in March?
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What I've done right before making this webpage on the difference between running outside vs. treadmill.

It has been winter months.  I spent the last 3 months running about 5-6 days per week on the treadmill.  I've ventured outside for the past 2 days now and I'm offering some comparison of the activities as the thoughts are fresh in my mind as I transition from treadmill to outside running.  Some of these differences between outside vs. treadmill running may be obvious but if you came to this webpage, then it might be of some interest.  It has been of interest to me because I frequently have to transition to running outside.

Calvin Lee Treadmill Run in Janaury 2012
Yes, I ran 18 miles on the treadmill a few days before posting this blog


Which is easier, treadmill running or outside running?

For me it is the treadmill (up to this point I have run much more on the treadmill).  I think the answer to this question usually lies with which is more practiced; or which one have I done more often.  I think those who have run outside much more would find that the treadmill would be more difficult.  I'm used to not thinking about the speed and letting the treadmill set the pace.  I don't need to lift up my feet for uneven surfaces, and mind can drift much more easily on the treadmill.  I just have to subconsciously try to keep from falling off the treadmill.  Thus I feel that I can  go faster on the treadmill than running outside.  I think most treadmills don't have their speeds calibrated properly; thus, it might be hard to gauge which one is easier, etc.

Setting your treadmill at 1% or 2% incline to match wind resistence?

 I don't run fast enough outside to create wind resistence.  I don't set the treadmill at 1% or 2% to just get that simulation.  My wife has always been in the habit of using a 1% incline on the treadmill as her baseline, but she has mostly been an outside runner.  I actually feel that I need to work on the "landing" - when my foot hits the ground, and I have a harder landing if I use a 0% incline. This gets me ready for landing harder outside on concrete or asphalt.  So I've managed to convince myself that a 0% incline is where I should do most of my running out of the treadmill.

What do I really like about running on the treadmill indoors?

What are the challenges to running outside vs. running indoors on a treadmill?

After running outside for the first time after 3 months of running on the treadmill, I can feel my muscles sore from things that they weren't used to.  I even took it easy running outside.  I ended up running much slower outside than on the treadmill, even though, I tried to pick it up.  My legs just wouldn't behave outdoors on their own.  I think they need to be trained to keep a certain pace.  I have this tendency to just slow down outside if I'm not thinking about it.  I think after a few more runs outside, I would get used to this automatically.

But the views are great and its harder to get bored outside.  I don't listen to music while running outside because I'm afraid I wouldn't pay attention to the traffic.

What is the biggest difference of running outside vs. running on a treadmill?

I think for me it would be the fact that I have to control my own pace.  Then I have to find a way to tell my legs that I want to run fast or slow or any of the million speeds in between.  Then the next biggest challenge is to get used to running on banked surfaces (that tilt).  And the third most challenge is to get used to the harder surface outside - the treadmill has a belt which is soft and the treadmill itself absorbs some shocks.



Hope you enjoyed this little comparison that I wrote.


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Looking for a California Marathon to run in March?
The official webpage for the Surgical Artistry Modesto Marathon is


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