How To Use Your Treadmill To Simulate Running Outdoors

July 12, 2023
  • Sydney Kaiser
    Product Reviewer, Content Writer, Certified Personal Trainer

*TreadmillReviewGuru helps consumers find the best home fitness products. When you buy a product we recommend, we may earn a commission.

It’s no secret that running on a treadmill can be easier than running outside. Fortunately, many home treadmills come with features that make it feel like you’re running outdoors. Below we will show you how to use your treadmill to simulate running outdoors. That way, you’ll still be able to run as you do outside.

And if you’re in the market for a treadmill, be sure to check out our best treadmills list to find the perfect one for you.

How To Use A Treadmill To Simulate Outdoor Running

Running On A Treadmill Vs. Running Outside

The experience that you get from running outside can be a little different than when you run inside on a treadmill. For one, you won’t feel the wind on your face or the effects of various weather conditions. You also won’t have to worry about obstacles like cars, people, and animals.

Another difference is that when you run outdoors, you’ll likely turn and potentially come across uneven footing like curbs, rocks, or even ice and mud. Running on a treadmill keeps you in the same forward-facing position, so there’s no turning or obstacles on the deck. While this can make you engage fewer muscles than you do outside, you can still get in a great run on your treadmill that feels like you’re running outside.

Adjusting Your Treadmill Run To Simulate An Outdoor Run

The following are some tips to help you feel like you’re running outside when you run on your treadmill.

Match Your Intensity Outside, When You Run On A Treadmill

If your run on a treadmill isn’t as challenging as when you run outside, then you might need to increase your treadmill’s speed. You can also use a heart rate monitor to see if your heart rate is higher when you’re running outside, or the same as when you’re on a treadmill. Checking in with how you feel running one way versus the other can help determine how you should adjust your treadmill.

Control Your Incline And Decline On Your Treadmill

Inclining your treadmill to 1% while you run, is a common suggestion because it is said to help mimic the wind that blows at you when you’re running outside. While we don’t recommend always running at a 1% incline, using the incline feature on your treadmill can help make your runs more challenging and thus more similar to running outside because most terrain isn’t perfectly flat.

Your treadmills incline and decline feature (if it declines) can not only diversify your running routine, but it’s especially helpful if you like to run on hilly trails outdoors. Some of our favorite treadmills for inclining and declining are the NordicTrack X32i and X22i Incline Trainers. They both incline up to 40% and decline to -6%.

The Treadmill’s Running Surface

Most treadmills offer cushioning that lessens the impact on your joints. Running outdoors on concrete doesn’t offer any shock absorption to reduce the impact. While we like running on treadmills because it’s a bit more forgiving on our joints, you might want a treadmill with firmer cushioning like treadmills from Sole and ProForm. Running on a firmer surface will give you a similar sensation to outdoor running. NordicTrack also has treadmills like the Commercial 1750 and Commercial 2450 that have cushioning that you can turn on and off, so you can experience a softer and firmer feel underfoot.

Keep Your Form The Same As When You Run Outdoors

A great way to benefit from running on a treadmill as opposed to the outside is making sure that your form remains the same. You want to keep your form as natural as you do outside, inside. One way to check in with your form is by counting your running strides per minute outside and then on the treadmill to make sure you’re not under or overstriding. You also want to be sure not to use your treadmill’s handles while you run. If you often hold onto the handles, you could be sacrificing your form, plus outside there are no handles to hang onto.

Utilize Outdoor Filmed Subscription Content And Programs On Your Treadmill

Using a treadmill that has outdoor content and classes like Matrix’s Virtual Active mode, or any of iFit’s outdoor trainer-led classes can help you feel like you’re running outside. The treadmills integrated with these programs will automatically change the incline to simulate running uphill and downhill. Plus, their large screens display clear and crisp graphics of real outdoor places, so it’ll feel kind of like you’re there.

Try out these tips and see if your runs inside feel like your runs outside. You can also check back with us for more treadmill tips and tricks, as well as reviews of the latest home treadmills.