Treadmill vs. Nature Running

I have heard this debate so many times with so many different viewpoints. You have heard them all too. Treadmills don't work your body like running outdoors. Treadmill running is harder. Treadmill running is easier. You need to increase the incline on a treadmill to mimic running outdoors. You shouldn't increase the incline on a treadmill because it alters your form. Training on a treadmill is fine. You shouldn't train on a treadmill.

Really? How can treadmill running spur so much to talk about?

I think for me it is a pet peeve to say one form of running is better than another because I have so much faith in us, the runners.

You know when you are working hard. You know when you aren't. (I will come back to this.)

My scientific and analytical mind got wrapped up in this as I truly tried to even the score card for evaluating all my runs, regardless of platform. This would be running solo outdoors, running outdoors while pushing a jogging stroller, running on a treadmill with no incline, or running on a treadmill with a 10% incline. I estimated my threshold paces for each and computing the intensity of each run based on its associated threshold pace. The end result: meaningless data. I could have a run at a calculated intensity of 0.98 (1.0 being running at threshold) and the run felt easy to moderate. Obviously, the error was in the threshold pace used to do the calculations.

Now back to what I was saying, I trust us, the runners, to know when we are working it really hard and when we aren't. You can do a run on a treadmill, outdoors, with a jogging stroller, etc. and estimate your rate of perceived exertion. Can you talk? No? You are running hard. Period. End of discussion.

Is running on a treadmill less effective than outdoor running? I say no. A run is a run (but I firmly believe in running in the beautiful outdoors whenever possible because nature is indeed awesome and you never know what you will see and what elements you will encounter).

Today I did my run on a treadmill at the gym. My goal was to do a run similar to my 10.3 miles where I managed to really push a couple of miles. One with a pace of 7'30" and one at 7'01". That day, I could only push two miles. Today, I wanted to see if I started smart, could I keep the intervals going? Essentially, I wanted to run a mile, push a mile, run a mile, push a mile, until I got to 10 miles. And I wanted to finish strong.

I say success! I kept my intervals going all the way to the end with my best mile being my last one at 7'08". I may not have gone as fast as my land-based run but I remained strong. I kept increasing my paces throughout and for that, I say great job! And at the end, I felt awesome and could have run more!

Stat comparison: Today, 10.27 miles with an overall pace of 8'11". My land-based run, 10.3 miles with an overall pace of 8'59".

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