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One of the biggest hurdles I've had to jump over with my running is deciding where to run.  There are many pros and cons to running outdoors versus running on an indoor treadmill, and over the last several weeks, I've had a healthy taste of both.  However, I haven't decided which is better, because there are benefits and drawbacks to each.


Running outdoors:



The weather is always an issue:  dress in layers if cold, peel them away when you get hot; sweating bullets in the summer.  Rain.  Lightning.  Snow.  Hail.  You name it, we get it.

I tend to get preoccupied with the beautiful scenery.  It's easy to slow my pace when I'm not concentrating.  As an artist, it's hard not to stop every few minutes to take pictures!  

Traffic is always a concern.  And doggy bombs.

As a woman, safety is an issue.  How big of a stick should I carry?

Loose gravel, rocks, and potholes can cause serious injury.

It's hard to gauge speed and distance because I don't have a screen that tells me my stats.



The scenery is to die for! 

The weather can be so beautiful, it's a glorious privilege to run outside.

I'm not as worried about my safety when I'm with other runners or on a busy trail.

Outdoor running provides a "real" experience as far as weather when training for a race.

A choice of venues, e.g. Monument Valley Park, Fountain Valley Nature Center, Santa Fe Trail, is great for changing up the course (hills vs. flat course) and scenery.

Did I mention fresh air and sunshine?

I like the camaraderie of other runners:  many nod, wave hello, one guy even said, "Good job" when he passed me a second time.

No membership needed.

I feel like I've gotten a "truer" workout when I run outdoors.  Does that make sense?


On a treadmill:



Boring ... have to look at the same 4 walls, the same people, same TVs, smell the same sweat ...

Running in place seems like "virtual" exercise.  Sometimes it feels like I haven't exercised as hard/far as when I'm outside.

I get very dizzy when I dismount the treadmill.  Not sure why.

Sometimes the numbers on the screen are discouraging:  "Have I really only run one mile?"  "Am I really that slow?"

The other gym members don't go out of their way to chat with you.  They're in, they're out, don't interrupt!

It's hard to get a friend to join you unless they have a membership to the same gym (or want to pay to be a guest).

Gym memberships can be costly, or purchasing a treadmill for the home can be out of the question, not to mention where to put it.



Climate-controlled environment.  Don't have to worry about layers or weather. 

You can set your speed and "zone out" if you want, because the machine keeps pace.

No excuses when it comes to weather--I can always run indoors.

Don't have to worry about traffic or stepping in unsavory stuff.

TVs can be distracting.

Sometimes I like seeing the numbers on the screen:  "Whew!  Only 5 minutes to go!"  "Wow!  Have I really gone 3.7 miles?"  (I have a love/hate relationship with the display screens!)


Fellow FIT Team member Diane has been running for 6 years now and does half-marathons, but she remembers her "just-starting-out" days. She pointed out that running outdoors is crucial if training for an outdoor race:  You have to get acclimated in case there's bad weather the day of the race.  She prefers running outdoors over a treadmill any day, and besides, you can't beat the scenery! 


Fellow gym member Lori, however, likes being able to "zone out" on the treadmill.   Even though she walks her dogs every morning, she likes not having to worry about traffic and being able to let her guard down.  Since the machine sets her pace, she can get distracted by the TV, knowing she's still walking the same speed.  Lastly, she looks forward to coming to the gym since it's a "destination work-out"--it does something for her mentally.


As for me, I can't decide which I like better.  Running outdoors or running on a treadmill has its advantages and disadvantages, but I think a combination of the two is what works best.  At least for me. 


So ... that's my story and I'm sticking to it.

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Comment by Stephanie Merchant Johnson on March 30, 2011 at 10:53pm
Thanks, Patti. :)
Comment by Patti Serrano on March 30, 2011 at 7:27am
Great Job!
Comment by Stephanie Merchant Johnson on March 12, 2011 at 11:13pm
You totally nailed it, Brian!  I am quickly becoming a fan of outdoor running!  Not only is it like sightseeing to run outside, but mentally, physically, and spiritually, it's a completely different experience.  I liked how you said you "just get through it" on the DREADmill--that's exactly what it seems like.  I always feel so exhilirated after an outdoor run.  I'm beginning to understand the "release of endorphins" my coach talks about!
Comment by Brian McCarrie on March 10, 2011 at 8:52pm

Hey Stephanie, great post about the pros and cons of indoor and outdoor running. I'll offer up my 2 cents if you don't mind.


The treadmill aka: the DREADmill. I run on a treadmill only when I have to and I don't have a gym membership these days so it's not that often. A DREADmill run for me is less of a run and more of just a workout and to me it's not really like running at all. When you're on the DREADmill, you input your time, or your distance or maybe your course profile and then the DREADmill starts and you just get through it. Also, I have no scientific data on this but I think you are using your muscles differently. The DREADmill goes by its self and you are using your muscles just to keep up with it. I think this is different than actual running.


Running outside is so much more than just a workout for me. No matter what part of town you live in, I'm sure you have a very beautiful place to run that's probably not too far away and many that are probably within a 15 or 20 min. drive. When I run on the DREADmill, like I said, I feel like I get in a workout but when running outside, I feel energized. It becomes less about the workout and more about the outdoor experience. I know that sometimes it's cold or raining or windy but if you have the right gear, all this stuff doesn't matter that much. Also you can take pride in knowing that you ran outside in some extreme conditions. Wear that like a badge of honor. Be proud when people ask "YOU RAN OUTSIDE TODAY!?".


I may be a little biased, I know there are many people who do most of their training on DREADmills and are better runners than I am but still, I'd much rather go for a run in Garden of the Gods than be stuck in some dirty smelly gym watching tv.


Keep up the great posts. I enjoy reading them!

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