How To Transition From Running On The Treadmill To Running Outdoors

Photographed by Caroline Tompkins.
I'm a decent runner on the treadmill, but when it comes to running outside, I kind of suck. On a treadmill, I can maintain a steady pace, binge-watch Fixer Upper, and hop off for a bathroom break if I need to. Outdoors, I run significantly slower, feel weaker, and have less control. In a perfect world, I would be the type of person who runs outside instead of the treadmill, I just wish it wasn't so damn hard.
Luckily, I'm not the only person who has this issue. Running on the treadmill is much different than running outside, and it can feel "easier" for a few reasons. "The thing that makes the treadmill easier is it's a machine; it's going to assist you in your leg turnover," says Christy Vachal, ACE-certified personal trainer, certified running coach, and instructor at Mile High Run Club. "It's essentially pulling you, versus outside you need to spend more energy propelling yourself forward." For these reasons, you may find it's easier to maintain a steady pace, or just run faster on a treadmill, she says.
Treadmills are also typically indoors, so you have the added luxury of being able to control the environment, Vachal says. Believe it or not, wind resistance outside can slow down your pace a lot, says Zika Rea, lead female coach and co-founder of ZAP Fitness, a Reebok-sponsored training center for runners in Blowing Rock, NC. And finally, your body takes quite a pounding when you run on hard pavement compared to a cushy treadmill, she says.
If you're like me and prefer the treadmill, that doesn't make you any less of a runner, but it may be worth it to expand your horizons and challenge yourself to run outside. According to Vachal, it's normal for treadmill runners to get disappointed when they first run outside, because it's a totally different ball game. Ahead, Vachal and Rea share their tips for those of us who have been treadmill-bound for a while, about how to make the transition to the outdoors a little bit easier.

More from Fitness

Watch

R29 Original Series