Running Update: Moving it Outdoors

For the first time since I started running two months ago, I ran outside on Thursday. It was a beautiful day and I knew that with three 5k races coming up this summer, I needed to transition my running outdoors at some point. When I first started, the weather wasn’t ideal so I ran at the gym that’s only a short walk from my apartment building. I was surprised to find that I actually like running on a treadmill. With a constant reminder in front of me of my current speed, distance, and time, it was easy for me to motivate myself to hit certain milestones. And so far my running has been very successful – each time I’ve run I’ve increased my pace to the point that I’m now running a mile and a half 5 minutes faster than when I started, and I’m running a 5k 7 minutes faster. I’m still embarrassingly slow by runners’ standards but these huge improvements give me faith that maybe one day I’ll be able to run a mile at a pace that’s not too embarrassing to post! 🙂

I noticed some positives and negatives with my first outdoor run. First, the neighborhood I live in is incredibly hilly so the first half of my two mile run is a pretty constant medium-grade uphill and then the second half is a very steep downhill with very little flat portions in between. Man is running (well let’s be honest – walking) uphill difficult! This pattern meant that a good portion of my “run” was spent walking – but I finished the two miles on about the same pace as I’ve been running on the treadmill. Of course, that’s an estimate based on my rough calculations since I don’t run with a GPS. I calculated my route ahead of time using (2.1 miles approximately) and just glanced at the time on my iPhone at the start and finish. So I figure this means that I’m either running/walking faster outside than I do on the treadmill (it’s hard to tell without a MPH tracker hovering right in front of my face) or that the downhill portion is helping me out a lot and balancing out the time I spent walking uphill. I’m just not sure which and I don’t like the uncertainty.

During the run, I was convinced that I like running on a treadmill better. But I was worried that meant I would never be the kind of runner who would run races. I know, all this worry during my first run outdoors means I probably need to calm down a little bit. But after I finished the run and noticed that I stayed approximately on pace – I’m not so sure. There were a few things that I did love about running outside like being out in the sunshine on a beautiful day and I think it was a much better workout than the treadmill. My legs were burning when I got home (which I love!) so those uphills definitely did their job! And it turns out my fear of the sidewalks/curbs/random sticks was unfounded as I did not – as I feared – trip and fall on my face.

So I guess my final verdict on running outside is that I’m going to keep working it in to at least one, if not more, of my weekly runs and see what happens. And I may need to adjust my route so I’m not running walking straight uphill for a mile. All that time spent walking just feels so depressing. And I think investing in a Garmin watch would help with my issues of tracking distance/speed/pace.

For the other runners out there:
What is your opinion on treadmill versus outdoor running?
What do you use to map out your runs?
Do you have a Garmin or other device to track your runs?


19 responses to “Running Update: Moving it Outdoors

  1. We Three Locals

    You’re doing great! Beginning running is hard and I truly commend your efforts. Transitioning from running on a treadmill to running outdoors — especially in such a hilly atmosphere — can be daunting, but I think you did exactly what you should: walk. Also, don’t be afraid of walking! Walking is your friend, especially for the first few times out. You’ll avoid injury that way and not get discouraged about sluggish “runs”. Keep at it and you’ll learn to love running outdoors!

    • Thank you so much for the encouragement 🙂 It means a lot! I’m glad to know that other runners don’t think of walking as a terrible thing! I figure as long as I’m running intervals and keeping my heart rate up – I’m doing ok. I’m slowly noticing that I’m walking less and less and loving running more and more! 🙂

  2. I’m not a runner, I love power walking BUT I have used a treadmill to do it, done it outside, and done it to dvds inside, and I definitely prefer outside and inside to using the treadmill. Maybe my equilibrium is off but it always makes me feel a little dizzy! 😛
    I’m glad you’re doing so well – AWESOME job!

    • Thank you so much Valerie! The encouragement really helps me keep with it 🙂 I thought that running on a treadmill would make me dizzy too but I’ve grown to like it a lot. I think part of the reason is I know that there’s always a flat surface under me so I don’t have the urge to look down and check for things that I could trip on! lol. And it’s nice to have on cold or rainy days so that I don’t let myself get talked out of running just because of the weather outside.

  3. Don’t be embarrassed to post your pace! I am “slow” as well but it is one of the things I most love about the running community and about the practice of running – it is about you against you; about knowing the person ahead of you is behind someone else. Someone has to bring up the rear and as long as you are pushing yourself and focusing on your mental and physical running challenges, you have so much to be proud of!

    I use the Nike+ Sportswatch on my runs and when I forget to charge my watch or can’t get it to link with a satellite. I much much prefer to run outside and I love the Nike+ GPS maps. I started running on a treadmill and was somewhat surprised at the extra effort it took to run on pavement. I then had the same surprise when I started running on trails. I’m an advoacate of variety so I do a bit of each but mostly run on the pavement.

    • Thank you so much! I’m trying not to be embarrassed by how slow I am. Especially when I see so many runners talking about a 10 minute mile as slow…and I’m working my butt off for a 14 minutes mile. But I did just start! So at least I know I have plenty of room to grow. I also think the fact that I’m so short (5’3″) has to have something to do with it, haha. I am definitely pushing myself so that’s what matters 🙂 I appreciate the encouragement!

      Is the Nike+ the one that ties in with the shoes? I’ve tried on Nike running shoes but I find them a little narrow. Currently I’m running in New Balances (which I love) and I was thinking about getting a Garmin watch since they are so popular (but also super expensive!). There are also apps like the mapmyrun app which I think will work in the meantime. I’m definitely going to try it out and I’ll post to let people know.

      I haven’t tried trail running yet but that does sound even harder than pavement! My main fear is falling so I’m sure the addition of the natural obstacles on a trail would keep me on my toes!

  4. Great job on transitioning outdoors! I agree that the treadmill is great if you like all the numbers, but if you train for races, I kindly encourage outdoor running more often. With treadmills, it does some work for you, whereas running outdoors it’s all 100% momentum on your part. I think you’re doing awesome, keep it going 🙂

    • Thank you so much! 🙂 I was definitely thinking that moving outdoors was a “must” and all these comments are confirming that for me. I didn’t realize the treadmill does some of the work for you – but that totally makes sense! 🙂 Hopefully our weather will clear up again and I can make more runs outdoor runs.

      Thank you so much for commenting and offering your insight! I really appreciate it 🙂

  5. I’m tremendously impressed with anyone who runs – keep up the good work, it’s something to be proud of. Wish I could say the same for myself.

    • Thank you so much! The encouragement is so appreciated 🙂 It definitely keeps me on track. And don’t count yourself out! It was just a few months ago that I didn’t think I was capable of running a mile. You’d be surprised what you’re capable of 🙂

  6. You can try adding some incline on your treadmill days. it will be more representative of outside running. Keep up the awesome work!

    • Thank you! That’s a great idea. I’ve heard that the ground outside is never completely flat (despite how it looks) so a .5-1 incline on a treadmill better approximates running outside. I’m going to try it on the days I run indoors 🙂

  7. Hi Jackie, I was originally a runner but have switched mainly to cycling. However, I will be competing in an event that is run every year, which requires you to run a distance of 4.5 km so I have been getting back into it. My goal is to complete the 4.5 km in less than 20 minutes, so it’s going to be a tough one to crack! To push myself I do a few different things. 1) I do a long run at a pace just below my normal pace to increase my endurance 2) I do a run which builds up in speed and incline for a set time and 3) A full on sprint for as long as I can go. I find that combination really helps build your strength and endurance.

    To answer your questions, I find that running on a treadmill is easier than running outdoors, as the ground is flat and consistent and you are pushing yourself off the belt, rather than pushing yourself forward off the ground.

    I use Strava ( to map my rides but it also works for running. I found that mapmyrun/ mapmyride was not accurate enough in terms of the GPS, it wouldn’t take measurements enough and it would miss corners. I would suggest switching if you aren’t a huge fan.

    I have a Polar watch to track my efforts and use strava to map my ride. You can get Polar/Garmin watches that do both and have GPS built in. Yes they can be expensive, but I found a great site to get them from – . Great prices!

    Keep us posted on your running progress!

    • Thank you so much for taking the time to comment and offering up all this great information! I’ve definitely heard of splitting your runs each week into a run for distance and a run for speed but I haven’t implemented it yet – now I’m definitely going to try! I’m new to running so I’m sort of making up my own training as I’m going along so all this advice is priceless 🙂 Do you do a sprint as your only run for the day or as a part of a longer workout session?

      I haven’t used mapmyrun too much yet but if I start seeing issues with it then I will definitely try some of the others you suggested! And thank you so much for the info on the Garmins 🙂 I’m definitely looking into getting one so I’m going to be doing some comparison shopping 🙂

      • No problem, I always want to share with people any information I have!

        I usually hit the gym 4-5 times a week and usually start my workout with a run. If I’m going to do a sprint, I usually build up to it. For example, today I started on 6 km/h with 0% incline. At the end of every minute, I alternated being increasing the incline or speed by 0.5. At the end of the run I was running at a 5% incline at 10 km/h. I then removed the incline and bumped the speed up to 16 km/h for my final sprint. That really takes it out of you! If you only do a sprint, it won’t increase your ability all that much, but by building it up, you increase your stamina AND push your maximum limit.

        I did a bit of research on those watches. For the watch I bought (Polar FT80) I tried to buy it here in Australia, it was going to cost me around 350 AUD. I found that site and it only cost me 202 AUD! Massive savings!

  8. Congratulations on your outdoor run! I remember my first, and I was scared…what to wear, will people stare, what if I have to walk…?!

    I’ve been running outside since last summer now, and I still walk when I need to. Definitely don’t be ashamed of walking, listen to your body. The amazing thing about running is that you just get better, without any huge effort. As long as you get out the door and start, every time gets easier.

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