How to Make the Transition from Treadmill to Outdoor Running

By admin / May 20, 2020

If you’re a treadmill runner, as the weather is warming up in most parts of the country, you might be thinking about making the transition to the outdoors. That can be especially true if you’re in a state that’s still in coronavirus lockdown, and you’d like to find any excuse to get sunlight and fresh air.

There are benefits to running outdoors as opposed to the treadmill, but also risks and certain considerations.

For example, if you’re running outside, you have to be cautious about vehicles. You need to follow pedestrian guidelines and make sure you’re always visible to drivers.

The following are some of the key things to know about transitioning from your treadmill to outside running.

Pros and Cons of Treadmills vs. Outdoor Running

Before you get into the technicalities of moving from the treadmill to the outdoors, what are the pros and cons of each option for runners?

Treadmills are extremely popular, and of course, one of the big advantages is the fact that you don’t have to think about the weather. You don’t have to consider heat exhaustion or dressing for the cold.

If you’re going to be doing a race, you can also simulate the terrain you know you’ll face in a pretty specific way if your treadmill has incline features. You can control your pace and stick with one that’s consistent on a treadmill more easily than you can outside.

Treadmill running lets you multi-task so you can, for example, watch a show or movie, you can do it safely anytime day or night, and the surface has better shock absorption than pavement. That increased shock absorption is easier on your joints.

What about the downsides of treadmills?

Some people find them boring and monotonous. When you run outdoors, you get fresh air and vitamin D from the sun and it can help your muscles get accustomed to different terrain.

Running outside burns more calories than running on a treadmill as well, because you work a bit harder to keep your pace.

Safety When You Run Outside

As was touched on, safety is a concern when you’re running outdoors, and that’s not the case when you’re on a treadmill.

Safety tips to keep in mind for outdoor running include:

  • Be conscious of your surroundings and use common sense. For example, don’t try to go on an unfamiliar route during your first outdoor runs or if you’re going to run when it’s dark out.
  • Always let someone know when you’re going for a run and when you expect to be back.
  • Watch out for things like bumps in the sidewalks or debris, such as rocks that could lead to an injury.
  • Make sure that you’re visible. Even if you are vigilant about paying attention to your surroundings, this is still important. You should wear either white or bright-colored clothes when you run. If you’re running in the early morning or evening, you should have some reflective items on.
  • It’s typically not a good idea to run alone at night. Save your night runs for when you have someone to go with you.
  • Make sure you carry identification with you on your runs.
  • If you run with music, you need to be hyper-aware of what’s going on around you. Sometimes it may be best not to run with music at all.
  • Never make any assumptions about people driving while you’re running. For example, don’t assume someone sees you at a crosswalk or is going to stop.

How to Make the Transition

Once you know how to be safe, the following are things to remember as you move from treadmill to roadway running.

  • Start slow. Even if you’re an avid runner on the treadmill, running outside puts a lot of factors outside of your control. For example, there are elevation variations and temperature issues to think about, and these aren’t factors when you’re indoors on a treadmill. You should plan to run at a slower pace initially than what you do on the treadmill.
  • Even if you run continuously on the treadmill without stopping, you may not be able to do the same outside. It’s okay to take walk breaks, especially if you’re on a very hilly run, and you’re not used to running on inclines.
  • Plan your route out ahead of time. You don’t want to get lost or go too far to the point where it’s challenging for you to make your way back. If you plan and map out your run, you’ll also be able to plan for hills ahead of time.
  • Run on trails when possible, because the pavement is tough on your legs and joints.

You might want to come up with a plan for your outdoor runs.

For example, you can start with short mid-week runs that you do outdoors, but you can still do your longer runs on the treadmill.

Then, as you get more accustomed to running outside, and if you don’t experience pain in doing so, you might think about having one or two longer runs that you do outside each week.

A good rule of thumb when running outside is that you should focus your training on your effort, instead of your pace. This takes some adjustment because it’s different from running on the treadmill when you measure everything by the numbers in front of you.

Another way you can adjust to running outside in addition to or instead of breaking it up between longer and shorter runs alternating outdoors is to add a minute of walking for every mile you do outside. This will reduce some of the impact you experience and lower the likelihood of feeling sore after an outdoor run.

Finally, have fun when you run outside. A lot of people find that it’s freeing, and it’s great for their mind—even more so than just running on the treadmill. You can explore nature and go on an adventure every time you run.


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