Running: Nature vs Treadmill

As human nature, everyone is different regarding their personal preferences. This goes for any type of classification regarding music style, your favorite vehicle make, foods you love and loathe…you get the idea. It’s no different with exercise. This is one reason why I enjoy talking to new people regarding this subject and consequently share the information with others. Throughout the past few years, I’ve talked to many different people with different ethics and mentalities. Due to what seemed like hundreds of conversations I’ve had, I’ve grown and been able to expand my outlooks on life, especially fitness.

The second most popular subject brought up in a conversation regards cardiovascular exercise. The question regards running on a treadmill or running outside. The conversation then escalated to the pros and cons of each and then safety requirements. The fact that my lifting buddies ages range from 17 to late 50s gave a great benefit from hearing several sides of each category.

The first time I was asked was about three years ago while I was doing a cardio session on a bike (ironic, eh?). Young and eager to learn, a young teenager stood and asked questions to my friend and I as we continued to pedal. The last question he asked was what would be better to do: treadmill or nature runs. Since then, I’ve had time to think and have asked my close friends who are as enthusiastic towards this subject as me.


For many, there’s a great deal of happiness to just stepping out your front door and taking off in any general direction. Armed with an iPod or MP3 player, a watch, and their lightest shoes, a journey to drown out the world for a few miles has begun. Others opt for a more “raw” approach. Armed with nothing but the clothes they have on, they take off with the next half hour or so planned out for them. Those who do this may be doing nothing but thinking, enjoying their environment, or have a “Forrest Gump” mindset and just felt like running.

Running outside has always had its conveniences. There’s no opening/closing time for it, you don’t need to worry about someone asking you how long you’re going to be on the machine, there is no sign on sheet, and you don’t need to adjust the speed of a belt or degree of inclination by pressing buttons. Many prefer this for that reason alone. If you’re zoned out, whether caught up in thoughts of your own life or really into the song, you may not even notice you’re climbing a hill. You can’t do this on a treadmill unless you enter a program.


While some opt for the natural approach, there are others who may enjoy running on a machine. The idea of being able to run several miles without leaving a 6 foot by 2 foot platform appeals to a lot of people. There is also the benefit of having a book able to be placed on the front so you can catch up with homework, the latest book by your favorite author, of the latest fitness magazine.

Also, most gyms now have an entertainment system. This usually involves a few TVs with the news on, ESPN, or a health channel. Some gyms even have an outlet that you can plug your earphones in and listen to the station you want to watch. The possibilities are endless.

What about safety factors?

Yes, to all those who are familiar with my work, I make safety of most importance. It’s no different for these two subjects. Even though the goal behind both of them are almost identical, there are very different safety precautions to take.

If you’re going for a jog outside, some of the biggest problems brought to my attention is needing to worry about everything around you. Rough neighborhoods, careless drivers, and the possibility of injuring yourself far away from your house. This is very important if you live in a rural area such as myself where some houses are miles apart. Anything could happen.

If you’re opting for a jog indoors, you have the same problems as any other piece of gym equipment. If someone breaks a machine but it looks as though nothing happened, you could be the next one using it when it decides to bust apart in mid jog. Then not only could you possibly suffer an injury but (depending on your contract), you may have to help pay to repair the machine.

Another thing is the age old falling and flying. We’ve all seen the videos of bored people with a functional treadmill with the speed cranked up. A few dares or “YOLOs” are thrown out and someone jumps onto it. The ending result: seeing someone fall then fly across the room. While it maybe funny out of boredom, it can happen when you’re trying to set a new record for yourself. Which brings me to another point.

If you need to slow down or stop abruptly while running, you need to grab the side rails (if any) and place your feet on the edge. Now depending how coordinated you are, this could present a bit of a problem. If you’re struggling and are on the verge of passing due to not eating, over heated, dehydrated, etc, it’s going to be a little challenging to do this. Your vision may become blurry and you can become dizzy. This is why the safety instructions boldly say to stop if you feel faint or dizzy.

Any recommendations for these things then?

If you decide to use your surroundings as your gym, use your smart phone (almost everyone has one) as your music player, GPS, and your link to people if you’re in trouble. Even if you don’t have good enough service where you are, pull a statue of Liberty and try sending a text out.

Above all else, let someone know where you’re going and a rough ETA of when you’ll be back. Most people can tell the difference between being a few minutes late compared to a couple hours.

Also, if you have one, fill up your Camelbak and strap it on before heading out. For those who are raising an eyebrow to me, a Camelbak is a very convenient way to have a hands free water source. Found at any local sporting goods store (or online), it’s worn like a back pack and holds anywhere from 2 to 4 liters of water. You extract the water via hose that can clip onto your shoulder strap.

For treadmills, I’d recommend a decent pace where you could go faster if you wanted, but keep it a half a mile per hour slower. Once you get used to a pace for a few minutes, then slowly increase the speed.

Most gyms have a clip and string that you can attach to your wrists. These are strictly for moments like those mentioned above. The clips act as a kill switch. Once removed, the entire machine goes back to the main screen and the belt stops.

As far as the comparison, there really is no better method of running. Both have pros and cons and depend on what an individual prefers. It goes back to the age old rule: Everyone is different. As long as a mile is ran, it shouldn’t really matter if it was on pavement of a belt.

Final Thoughts

Keep pushing to shatter old goals and create new ones to better yourself. As long as you fulfill a goal and continue to set new ones for yourself, it shouldn’t matter what others do or say. Goals are set to better yourself, no one else. Don’t worry if your friends run indoors if you prefer to be out in the fresh air or vice versa. Do something for YOURSELF.

Above all else, keep your head up and be safe!


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