6 Reasons To Start Running Outside Instead Of On The Treadmill

by Julia Guerra
Getty Images/Guido Mieth

I know it may not seem like it, but seriously, everyone is capable of becoming a runner (yes, even you). But not everyone can be a treadmill runner -- that's the key difference. See, running on the treadmill is a totally different experience than running outside, and many beginners are turned off by the monotony of an indoor run. But trust me, there are plenty of benefits -- both mental and physical -- to reap from taking your run to the great outdoors.

So, if you feel like you have a serious aversion to pounding the pavement, here are six reasons to start running outside instead of on the treadmill.

1. The Treadmill Was Once A Literal Form Of Punishment

OK guys, we need to talk about this cardio machine's disturbing history for a minute.

To put it bluntly, the treadmill was originally developed as a form of torture. In the early 19th century, penal philosophers came up with the idea of running on a treadmill as an alternative to the death penalty, and made prisoners run for up to six hours straight as a form of punishment.

The longest I've ever willingly stayed on a treadmill was one hour, and even that was a stretch. So I totally see why jogging for hours and getting literally nowhere could be seen as torture.

2. It's An Uphill Challenge (Literally)

While I've definitely had my fair share of intense cardio sessions on the treadmill, there's really nothing else like the runner's high that comes with hitting the pavement.

Running outside eliminates the idea of limitations. You can challenge yourself in new ways (for instance, actually running uphill, rather than pressing the incline button), and soak in a natural dose of vitamin D while you're at it.

3. It's A Way To Unplug

Running in silence isn't for everyone, so while you can definitely bring your phone along for musical motivation, make sure you've signed out of every social media app before you embark on your run.

By taking the time to sign off, you get a chance to really experience the physical world around you -- which will be incredible in and of itself, but will feel even better with a flood of endorphins coursing through your body.

4. Running Is A Form Of Meditation

Runner's high isn't a myth, but it also cannot be linearly defined. For some, there's an intoxicating thrill in running for sport, but for others, this sensation comes not from running itself, but where a person runs.

According to Florence Williams, author of The Nature Fix: Why Nature Makes Us Happier, Healthier, and More Creative, humans are wired to spend time outdoors.

She told National Geographic,

Our sensory system evolved in the natural world and when we're in those spaces, our brains become relaxed because these are things that we were designed to look at, hear, and to smell.

When you're running on the treadmill at the gym, it's easy to get side-tracked and compare your speed or your form to the sprinter next to you, or to quickly become unmotivated by the broken air conditioning or bland color scheme of the building.

In nature, however, you're reconnecting with the earth in its purest form, which can leave you feeling more refreshed and revitalized after your run.

5. You'll Connect With Your Body and Mind Better

When you run outside, all you have are the sounds and sights of nature to accompany your thoughts.

Separating yourself from everyday distractions will allow you to give your entire self the positive attention you deserve, and allow you to work through or combat any negative feelings that may arise.

Sport psychologist Robert Swoap, PhD, told SELF,

Try noticing and being curious about thoughts, but not attaching any weight to them. Saying, 'Oh, that's interesting, I've got this negative thought,' and then letting that go.

6. It's The Cheapest Form Of Exercise

You can't put a price on health, but gym owners can (and do) put a pretty high price tag on memberships (it is a business, after all).

Nature, however, is free.

So, while you may have your own list of hang-ups preventing you from running outside (or in general), there's really no excuse to not, at the very least, give it a try.

The next time you're lacing up a pair of sneakers only to step on the treadmill, walk out of the gym and into the wilderness instead.

If anything, at least you'll breathe in some fresh air instead of a stranger's sweat.