Mill of Dread

dreadmillFor the first few months of my time as a runner, I only ran on the treadmill. As someone who had a bad history with running, I was afraid to go outside and get stuck somewhere, unable to run anymore. I liked the safety and predictability of running on a treadmill.

And then I signed up for a 5K, and decided I best try this ‘outdoor’ thing.

Wow, what a difference. Running outside is interesting, freeing and just feels better. It really struck me this week as I did a 7 mile workout on the treadmill due to lightning and harsh rain outside, and then did a 5+ mile run in the heat and humidity of Atlanta later in the week. As I ran around Piedmont Park, I was keenly aware of how much lighter my body felt running outside. My stride was natural, my foot strikes were soft and light, and I felt like a gazelle (though my pace would suggest otherwise). I felt exhilarated and free despite the heat and thick air.

Contrasting that to my treadmill run was stark. I felt like it was a harsh experience, I felt exhausted, and each stride hit my body with an impact that felt unsustainable. I felt like I was running at a good clip, but my Garmin was showing some of the slowest times I had run since I started running. The disconnect between my pace and the treadmill pace just wreaked havoc on my mind and added to the mental anguish I felt on the ‘mill. I don’t typically focus on my distance too much when running, but on the treadmill, I felt this constant need to check how far I’d come, or, more accurately, how much longer I had to endure this thing for.

(A little video from the time I did a run analysis at Spaulding National Running Center)

I felt like I was being run instead of running.

But if you read about treadmill running, you see things like, “easier on the joints.” I think that might have been true as I started out and had poor, bounding form, but certainly once I had figured out how to run (which really didn’t take too long), the belt dictates too much, and the paper-thin landing surface does little to absorb ground contact forces. I know asphalt isn’t forgiving, but it seems to be more forgiving – or at least works with my sneakers better to make me feel like my joints aren’t being hammered the way they do on the treadmill. I mean, even my shoulders feel a jarring impact on the treadmill, where I feel more of a floating feeling on the road.

[tweet_box inject=”#dreadmill” design=”box_12_at” author=”newbodies”]I felt like I was being run by the #treadmill instead of #running.[/tweet_box]

Treadmills serve a purpose, and I’m glad I have the option to use one when I need to, but there’s a reason it has earned the nickname ‘Dreadmill’. So what’s my point in all of this? If you’re one who has always stayed in the confines of the indoor workout facility, and relied on machines, give the outdoors a try. I can safely say that [tweet_dis]my life as a runner was really unlocked and opened wide when I started running outside[/tweet_dis]. The same is true for my time cycling where getting out on my road bike is such a great experience and sitting on a stationary bike is merely a sweaty one I want to be done.

[tweet_dis]Go for a walk, ride a bike, run – do whatever activity you enjoy, but give it a shot outdoors[/tweet_dis]. You’ll feel free, you’ll get time to enjoy an enriching and stimulating environment instead of a wall, mirror or TV screen, and you will enlighten.your.body.


About bryan falchuk

bryan falchuk is the founder of, a certified personal trainer, behavior change specialist and the best-selling author of "Do a Day". bryan coaches people on their whole health - the physical, mental and emotional combination of wellness that we need to thrive and change our lives.

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