The Great Debate: Outdoor Running Vs. Treadmill

Outdoor Running Vs. Treadmill


Colorado’s winter has been extremely mild this year. Snow can be very beautiful, but I have been loving this warmer weather and sunshine. It makes for some excellent outdoor workouts, like a run or a workout at the park!

The other day we had one of those terrible spring storms, giant flakes of heavy wet snow. I was super bummed that I probably wouldn’t be able to do a stroller run in the half foot of slush on the sidewalks.



I could have easily changed up my workout routine to skip the run, BUT I have a pretty strict running regimen to train for my marathon relay with my fit friends…and I don’t want to let them down.  What is a girl to do?


“Why don’t you run on the treadmill?” My husband suggested.


Excuse me? What? Run inside on the treadmill I bought myself several years ago to get hot and never use anymore?

I used to really love running on the treadmill. I lived in the mountains, so running outside in the winter was really tough! Running outside in the summer was tough because it was mountainy (lots of hills).  I was purchasing gym memberships to run on their treadmills, and I’m like…hey let’s logic this and just get one I can have forever…and haul all 8,000lbs of it every time I move. So I did that! And I used it for a solid few months.



When I moved to Denver, there were sidewalks and flat trails and nice little parks for running. So I started doing that. Then I kinda stopped running and had kids.

NOW I really like running outside, the paths are even nicer in Parker, as are the parks. I think it’s good to get the kids outside…but OH NO, the SNOW!


Why don’t you run on the treadmill? Well I had three reasons:

  1. It’s in the basement where the litter boxes reside, and I’m not gonna lie, it does not smell like roses down there.
  2. I have a firm belief that it runs faster than it says, and it’s discouraging when I FEEL like I’m running a ten minute mile but it reads 11 minute mile pace.
  3. I didn’t know what the kids would do while I ran.


Yet, the facts remained. In lieu of running outside after a snow storm, my options are:

  • Don’t run.
  • Run on the treadmill.


So I ran on the treadmill! Aaaaand it was not horrible. After putting the baby down for a nap, a hefty dose of deoterizing room spray in the basement, setting up some play stuff for the boy, starting Finding Dory on the ancient  T.V.,  and getting over the feeling that my 12 min pace was inadequate…my run was actually really awesome!

I liked that I could monitor my pace to extend my distance run. I worked up a crazier sweat even though it felt easier. It was great that I didn’t have to be back home at a certain time for naps or diaper changes or feeding because I was already there!

Now I had second thoughts about liking outdoor running better. So which one is better? Better for your body, lifestyle, and training? This is where a detailed pros and cons list comes in handy!



Running Outside



  • Fresh air – It’s good for lung function, can help boost your immune system, and help with blood pressure and heart rate by increasing oxygen in your body. It increases your energy and can improve your mood.
  • Change of scenery – Obviously since you are moving, you’ll be seeing different things which can make your run more enjoyable.
  • Change of Terrain – Hills make for a tougher course and harder workout which means more burned calories and muscle building.
  • Kids outside – All of the benefits of fresh air apply to kids as well! It’s good for kids to be outside seeing different things and learning about their environment.



  • Pace – You may be a pro at keeping your own pace, but if you’re like me you have no idea how it’s going until the end. Keeping pace is more difficult when you have different environmental factors.
  • Unexpected terrain – When I ran in Denver I tripped A LOT on uneven sidewalks. I looked a little bit like Bambi sometimes trying to keep myself up. Don’t get me wrong, baby deer are cute, but not when you’re trying to be a gazelle. When running outside, terrain could cause an unexpected injury.
  • Weather – Snow, Ice, Rain, Heat…weather impact your health if you are not prepared for the conditions. It will also impact the kiddos!





  • Consistent Pace – Treadmills will keep you running at a consistent pace which helps with time training.
  • Location – My treadmill is at my house, but if you use one at the gym, you are always in proximity to amenities you need.
  • Weather – You don’t have to worry about the weather.
  • Change of terrain – Hills are in your complete control!
  • Entertainment – You can set up a T.V. and watch Fixer Upper for days. (Or if you’re me you watch Avengers because it really pumps you up!)
  • Kids – They won’t be confined to the stroller for the length of your workout. I like that my son can play with things I set up for him, and I like that my daughter can nap in her bed instead of a stroller.
  • Easier on Joints – Sidewalks and roads don’t allow any “give” like a treadmill does making less impact on your joints.



  • Kids – My kid does a good job at entertaining himself, but sometimes he doesn’t. My daughter does a good job napping, but sometimes she doesn’t. Sometimes it just doesn’t happen! Additionally, if the boundaries and hazards associated with the treadmill are unclear to your child do not run with them present and unsupervised.
  • Expected Terrain – As great as it is to have a consistent run, your body isn’t required to react to changes in the terrain which doesn’t work as many muscles and may reduce agility.
  • Boring – Many think that running on the treadmill is boring, because it really is. Music/movies/books on tape…these can all help, but you are literally going nowhere and it can be monotonous.



So which do I think is better? Personally, I decided that running outside is still my preference. I do, however, love the option for using the treadmill in my basement…despite the smell 😉


Which do you prefer? USA, LLC

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16 thoughts on “The Great Debate: Outdoor Running Vs. Treadmill

  1. I love the flexibility of both options. It’s nice to get outside when the weather is nice but for times that I don’t have a babysitter the treadmill is a great option.

    1. Yes! I think flexibility is key with the littles, so it’s great to have the option to do both!

  2. I really actually wish I had a treadmill just so I could see which one I like the best. I LOVE running and have been MIA for so long that I’ve lost my touch with it. We have nowhere to put a treadmill in our ultra tiny house, so I guess running outside is my preference…(but secretly, my preference is a treadmill, even though I’ve never had one in my house:))

    1. I’m happy to hear you love to run…I just got back into the running groove, it’s hard not to love, right?! I’ve definitely lived places where the treadmill doesn’t fit, and it’s kind of a nightmare! LOL! Let me know how you feel about treadmills if you get a chance to try it out!

  3. OMG! I was just talking about this exact topic with my boyfriend. I not only prefer running or walking outside I believe I get a totally different workout. I’m super cold natured so during the winter I stay in and run on the treadmill. Yesterday it was actually warm enough in the morning for me to venture back outside. It was like I hadn’t been working out all winter. And today my legs are actually sore. It’s so crazy! I am team Outdoor Running! LOL

    1. LOL! That’s hilarious that you were just talking about this! My family and I discussed this over Easter…surprisingly split opinions! I LOVE not having to deal with the elements outside, but you’re right, it’s a completely different workout outside!

  4. I am not a runner by any means. I much prefer weightlifting. I don’t get any of these runners highs and emotions that true runners do!
    I love being outdoors and whenever the weather picks up, I always get this urge to go running. Then remember SHIN SPLINTS hurt A LOT.
    So i go back to the treadmill and get bored. Mostly, I ended up walking outside and doing sprint intervals on the treadmill!

    1. I need to get into weightlifting, it is sooo good for your body!! I might have to hit you up for some tips 🙂 YES shin splints are the worst, and definitely put a damper on running! Oh man, those sprint intervals on the treadmill are killer…sounds like you have an excellent routine!

  5. It’s great that you have the option and CO is a wonderful place for outdoor running! I prefer outdoor as we have generally mild winters here in Berlin, but I really wish I had the option for indoor on really nasty days. Unfortunately, I live in an apartment on one of the top floors and I don’t think my neighbors would appreciate me pounding away at 5am!

    1. Yes it is so lovely to run outdoors here, I’m a lucky gal! Wow, Berlin!! I would love to run there! Oh man, I totally had the treadmill on a top floor condo…I’m pretty sure the neighbors weren’t super jazzed about it, soooo I didn’t run on it as much 😉

  6. You sound just like me. I love running outside but suck at keeping a pace but I don’t even really care. But this winter has been awful even in Texas, we go from 70 with 30 mph winds to 45 the next day and I just can’t run in the cold. Anything under 70 is cold to me. I can do interval sprints on a treadmill but that’s it, I get bored. So I normally play Basketball indoors or use the cycle bikes.

    1. Yes, my outdoor pace is ‘make it home before the kid runs out of snacks’! Lol! I’ve heard the winter has been terrible in TX…hopefully this spring is looking better! Indoor sports are great option…and way more fun than running in place. Cycling is great, too…and easier on the joints!

  7. I run on a treadmill, but the belt broke the week before last so since then I’ve been forced to run outside. I guess it’s okay when the weather is nice. I didn’t much enjoy running in the rain, or when it was so cold I had to stuff my hands in my jacket pockets and my ears felt like they were going to get frostbite and fall off. (Maybe it wasn’t that cold but it sure felt like it to me.) Then today the place where I run was full of people loudly sawing a tree into pieces. More fun. I’d say other people, cold temperatures, and other environmental things you can’t control are the major cons to outdoor running.
    I much prefer running on the treadmill but will run outside if I have to.

    1. Very good points!! Outside can be so unpredictable, and definitely ruin your run! I love that you can control almost all of the environmental aspects of an indoor run…makes for a predictable and successful workout!

    1. Thank you, I hope it has motivated you to give the treadmill a shot! Let me know how it goes, best of luck!

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