The Distinction Between Treadmill, Street and Trail Exercises.

If you have walked or walked on the same surface for a while, it may be advantageous to change it. Have you been using the treadmill for months? Take your workout outdoors. Are you stuck on the same old neighborhood street? Go to your nearest park and hit the trails!

But what’s the difference between working out on a treadmill, sidewalk or trail – and which workout plan is best for you? Here, running coaches break everything.

WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN TREADMILL, ROAD AND TRAIL workouts?

“The treadmill is technically the easiest (to run and run), with the road and trails being the most challenging,” says Sara Hayes, founder and head coach of Mindful Miles Running, a program for runners of all levels. This is because the treadmill belt helps your feet and you are in a more controlled environment indoors.

On the road and on the trails, on the other hand, you can burn more calories due to factors such as hills, terrain changes and wind. But if you are used to road running and suddenly switch to the treadmill, it may seem more difficult due to perceived effort (also known as the severity of an exercise, regardless of how your body reacts), says Meghan Kennihan, a certified running coach in Track and Field in the United States.

In the end, you can get a quality workout on each of these surfaces. The key is to maintain the same effort. Here’s what you need to know about the pros and cons of each, as well as the best time to use them.

TREADMILL, TRAINING

Of course, the treadmill is a smart option if you have little time or if you live somewhere with extreme weather conditions. It is also a wise choice if you are new to regular walks or runs or are prone to health-issue such as shin splints. “The treadmill surface is softer and, unlike the ground’s reaction forces, ‘gives in’ when running on concrete or asphalt,” says Kennihan.

But Treadmill anxiety can certainly be one thing. So use a high-energy playlist, an engaging TV show or a fun workout program to keep your workout interesting.

PROFESSIONAL:

Air conditioning
Adjustable tilt and speed settings
Easier for joints thanks to a softer surface

DISADVANTAGE:

Can become boring
No variation in terms of terrain
Requires gym membership or investment
You can still be hurt

THE BEST FOR:

Light walks or runs
Full body workouts
Interval training
Street workouts
“The road is great because that’s how you can explore and get some fresh air,” says Hayes. You can get out of your door and immediately walk on the sidewalk. Many running and walking clubs meet on the street, and joining one could help you to be accountable and increase your pace.

The Main Drawback? You are at the mercy of mother nature depending on the weather conditions. But there’s a silver lining on the horizon for rainy day training: “Training in different conditions can create a sense of mental toughness,” says Amie Dworecki, Head Running Coach for Running With Life.

PROFESSIONAL:

No need for a gym membership or special equipment
Can schedule races for interesting views and distance marks (think: run at an average pace for the next three blocks or Sprint until you reach the stop sign)
Research suggests that outdoor exercise is generally more enjoyable and dynamic

DISADVANTAGE:

Potentially higher risk of health-issue from repeated impacts on harder surfaces (such as concrete)
Bad weather could disrupt your race schedule
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THE BEST FOR:

Daily Walks
Socialize with other runners and hikers
Regular and extended endurance races (e.g. training for a road race)

TRAINING TRAIL

“Trailrunning is even more difficult because your foot placement is the key to not tripping. The surface is often soft and so you don’t get the back energy you get from jumping off the road or treadmill,” says Kennihan.

But natural runs can increase your mental well-being and train more muscles as you navigate the ever-changing terrain. “Often, first-time trail runners can be painful in places they didn’t even know existed,” says Dworecki.

PROFESSIONAL:

Build more muscle and strengthen your core
Improved balance and body awareness
Get a Quality time mood boost in nature

DISADVANTAGE:

Potentially higher risk of health-issue due to rough terrain
Bad weather could disrupt your race schedule

THE BEST FOR:

“Boot Camp” style workouts with body weight exercises like lunges and Step-Ups at different intervals like Trail marks
Longer walks or runs to increase fitness and challenge different muscle groups
Meditative nature walks or scenic hiking trails

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