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Run Easier but Slower on a Treadmill? Reasons & Solutions

It could be the bad weather outside or the erratic shift schedule that compels you to run on a treadmill most days of the week.

Some feel happy about doing a structured indoor workout, while for some others, it could be the ticket to monotony and boredom.

Whatever might be your feelings or workout goals, one thing is for sure—running on a treadmill causes you to lose pace compared to running outside.

Running Outside

Why Do I Run Slower on a Treadmill than Outside?

First and foremost, running indoors increases heat levels compared to running outdoors in the cool and breezy wind that brushes against your face.

Don’t expect the giant fan to make any difference to your running pace as heat does slow you down immensely.

Secondly, the stride length taken on a machine differs from what’s take outside as you are fearful about falling off the treadmill or even whether you are too tall for running at jet speed on a compact machine.

Finally, it’s the calibrations too that vary with wear and tear of the treadmill.

Speed and distance measures aren’t displayed accurately with constant use, and this could deflect one’s goals realigning the user’s pace.

Is It Normal to Run Slower on a Treadmill?

It is perfectly normal to run slower on a treadmill compared to running outside. Even world records prove so.

The fastest marathon record for running outside is 2:01:39 (men, 2018), while for a treadmill marathon, it is exactly 2:21:40 that’s comparatively much slower indeed!

This is not weird or bad, given the fact that the indoor training environment is much different from the pretty outdoors!

No pleasant weather to uplift your exercising spirits and the monotony affects performance, too, despite the availability of TV or iPad to screen your favorite visuals.

This makes it mentally as well as physically tiring for the body as your workout duration increases.

On a treadmill, it’s your quads that propel you forward during each step as the hamstring muscles are used less.

This predominantly changes your natural running speed and style, making you work harder with each passing step.

How Much Faster to Run Outside Than on a Treadmill

For those who run outside as well as on a treadmill, I am sure that you have noticed a significant difference in running time where running outside helps you cover a greater distance in the given time compared to running indoors.

Energy expelled while running on a treadmill is lesser than outdoors as you don’t have to fight against air resistance, but this paves the way for greater heat dissipation while running outside comparatively.

Set the treadmill to a 1% incline to get the same energy and effort level as outdoors.

While a lower decrease in energy dissipation could make one feel happy that he/she could run much faster comparatively, the opposite is, in fact, true and has also been proved by a study.

In a 2014 study, 18 runners performed a one-hour time trial on a treadmill as well as outside.

Surprisingly, they completed 11.8K on the treadmill and 12.2K outside.

So how much faster to run outside than on a treadmill? Converting this to a percentage increase would help us understand better: the runners ran 3.3% faster outside than on the treadmill.

Michael Wardian, an American marathoner, set a treadmill marathon record of 2:23:58 while his outside running record is 2:17:49.

He felt that such a decrease in pace was due to a feeling of being trapped inside the four walls that made it extremely challenging for the player to achieve the same feat on the treadmill as his outdoor record.

Can I Run Faster on a Treadmill than Outside?

Yes, Sure! You don’t need to worry about heavy boulders or rocky stones that are strewn anywhere on the road, which acts as a speed-breaker to your exercise routine. Also, you can shun away the difficulties of running among muddy puddles or slippery surfaces due to rain, which once again impairs speed.

In a nutshell, weather conditions play an integral role in affecting your running speed.

But on a treadmill, you never have to worry about external weather conditions. The machine is already in motion, and all that you must do is simply move your legs to match the speed.

Once you set the speed, your legs become automatically inclined to move at that particular speed, helping you exercise at a definite pace.

How to Run Faster on a Treadmill? (Dos & Don’ts)

By setting a 1-2% incline, and run without holding the handrails or the console, you could run faster on a treadmill.

It might be a ‘dreadmill’ for many, but the treadmill could prove to be your fitness guide if you use it correctly.

Don’t ever give up on matching your outside running speed on the treadmill as it is only a matter of time before you get the hang of using the equipment in the right way.

Don’t simply get on the treadmill, hit the start button, and start working out.

Warming up is extremely crucial for a fulfilling workout experience, just like your outside exercise routine.

Start with a slow walk/jog before going for a challenging running pace.

Mimic outdoor conditions by setting a 1-2% incline, but for beginners, a zero-incline position is good until you get comfortable.

Never set a very high inclination number too as it becomes stressful on joints/knees causing slowing down of pace and even decrease in exercise duration too.

Above all, you need to run similar to how you run on the road—without holding the handrails or the console, as this can seriously affect the posture.

Handrails are there simply to help you get on/off the equipment safely.

Also, holding onto handrails means that you are not running at the correct pace.

You can improve your running speed by taking care of your stride length too. Keep it the same way you would run outdoors.

Take short and quick strides to run faster and beat your outdoor running speed!

Is Running Outside Harder than a Treadmill?

Yes, unpredictability is a very big disadvantage of running outdoors, which slows down the pace frequently. You have to deal with frequent weather changes that surprise you during most exercise sessions. And you can’t control the inclination and difficulty level as it is possible on a treadmill. 

You get to enjoy the glowing sunshine that loads your body with vitamin D or the chirpy birds that improve your mood, but the hard fact is that running outside is harder than running on a treadmill.

Think about puffing and gasping for air in the chilly weather outside or the incessant rain that makes it more difficult to maintain pace in the skidding roads!

But, in a treadmill, you have no surprises or shocks coming your way once you set the inclination and speed. This, in turn, could become boredom for many who don’t fail to call it the ‘dreadmill.’

Why Is It Much Harder to Run Outside on Asphalt than on a Treadmill?

Because you have to deal with air resistance and are also required to propel the entire body forward compared to running on a treadmill where you are simply required to lift the feet off a moving deck.

Running is a high-impact activity that causes wear and tear of your joints/bones. And running outside on asphalt can cause more stress on your joints as you are required to deliver more effort.

Whereas a treadmill absorbs most of the shock, which would otherwise be borne by your joints.

Running on a hard track such as asphalt is never good for the knees if you suffer from knee/joint problems.

The mind too tricks individuals into believing that hot/cold weather can ruin your workout routine, making it harder to run outside compared to AC rooms that make it more comfortable.

How Much Harder Is Running Outside than on a Treadmill?

Running outside or on a treadmill delivers similar results, but the course of the activity brings about satisfaction or irritation to an individual depending on your mindset.

For those who feel that changing weather conditions delay their fitness goals, running outside against the wind or muddy roads could be great pain.

Also, if you are not much inclined towards challenges, the unpredictability of the roads could ruin your running experience.

Whereas, if you love nature and find it interesting to meet various people who share your passion for exercising, then you would not feel that running outside is harder than running on a treadmill.

If you think about the positives of running outside such as activating more muscles by dodging people on the road/bumpy stones or increased resistance levels that promise higher calories burned, training on the road provides the individual with the adeptness to handle tough situations with ease and above all, helps one improve mental strength.

In Closing

Running outside or on a treadmill has both advantages and disadvantages to its kitty. Many love to exercise outdoors, which could help them walk/run faster, maintaining their stride.

If you find it boring, hard, and difficult to run inside on a treadmill, these factors could even be the primary contributors for making it a slower workout experience compared to running outside.

The right way to set your exercise regimen is to find the best option to exercise, keeping your primary requirements in mind.

Once you are fixed with this, there can be nothing that could stop you from achieving your goal.


  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marathon
  2. https://www.podiumrunner.com/events/treadmill-marathon-world-record-attempts-set-for-boston/
  3. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/289373483_Comparison_between_running_performance_in_time_trials_on_track_and_treadmill
  4. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Wardian