Manual vs Electric vs Outdoor Running

Manual vs Electric vs Outdoor Running

A week ago today my Mother gave me an electric treadmill. Super cool Mom, huh?

I love to run outside best but winter runs just scare me! Running on ice? I think not! Before I had a home treadmill I would walk 15 minutes to the gym to run on their electric treadmill and then walk home. It was very time consuming. I also managed to get runs in at gyms where I have worked. Still, nothing beats running on your own time and terms.

Prior to a week ago I was using a manual treadmill for my indoor morning runs, due to the cold Toronto winters. I originally thought that using a manual treadmill would improve my run times, since you have to put more body in to it, to make the belt move.

I noticed right away it was indeed more challenging to gain speed. I went from a 6.0-6.5 tempo run and a 7.0-7.5 sprint, to a 4.0-4.5 jog and a 5.5-6.0 sprint. 4.0 is the speed I walk at outside! I also run quite a bit faster outside too. It must be because I’m not staring at times, numbers and a wall. I also noticed I could not run for very long on the manual. It was extremely tiring. Not only was my speed significantly decreased, so were my miles!

I’m inclined (no pun intended!) to believe after having experienced it, that manual treadmills are not for runners. It’s quite easy to walk on them but I found running most difficult. For one thing, I had to hold on the entire time to keep the belt moving. To be honest, I felt like I was pushing a shopping cart the entire time!

It was very discouraging and eventually, despite long lower body stretch sequences afterward, I started to get sore in my ankles and hips.

Last Friday I ran my first run on the new electric treadmill. Thinking I would have improved I set the speed right away (after a warm up of course) to 6.0 and ran 40 minutes.

I have to say, the next day I felt like I was hit by a truck! I could not even walk down the stairs because my calves and hamstrings were just so sore. I had not been that achy from a run since my 10k!

I had to reduce my speed and even take walking breaks. I have not had to do this since I started running almost 5 years ago! Needless to say, this has been an unexpected set back. Even still, I’m not going to give up. I see it as a challenge. Not only will I gain back my speed and distance but I will surpass it and improve my times.

This week alone has shown big improvements compared to the manual treadmill. On the manual I was running about 10 miles/week. My first week on the electric treadmill I have ran 23.5 miles and burned more than 3500 calories! I’ve also managed to run tempos again, without having to stop for walking breaks.

Here’s a Pro and Con list on manual, electric and outdoor runs:

Manual Treadmill



-Small and easy to store

-Great for beginners that need to start by walking


-Has a 200lb weight limit

-Isn’t easy on your joints

-Can’t run very easily

-The calorie count was extremely low, like 100 calories per/hour!

-You have to hold on at all times

-You have to stop running to adjust the incline

Electric Treadmill


-Has better features such as programs, a heart rate monitor and fat calories burned

-Much easier to run faster and longer

-Incline can be changed while you are in motion

-Using a build in HR monitor is great for controlling workout intensity and making sure you are not over exerting yourself


-Running on any treadmill can seem repetitive and boring

-Electric treadmills need maintenance

-Fixing a broken electric treadmill can be expensive. It’s can be hard to find parts to fix it. Also when it breaks down for good, you have yourself a big pile of useless junk to dispose of.

-Electric treadmills are bigger and harder to store.

Running Outside


-Lots to see. You never get bored

-You can run a different route with varying speeds, times and terrain every single day.

-It feels very natural

-No machine maintenance or worrying about anything breaking down on you


-Outdoors runs can be spoiled by rain and cold weather

-Unless you have a HR monitor it’s hard to track intensity. I track my routes with a pedometer and on Google maps to at least know my distances

-Can potentially be dangerous because of cars and things laying in the road. I once sprained my ankle because a giant beetle jumped in my way and scared the crap out of me!

-You are likely to face harassment by goofs in the streets and in their cars.

-Your running shoes wear out rather quickly

Choosing how you want to get your runs in is up to you but if you ask me nothing beats outdoor runs in the summer and electric treadmills in the winter.

Keep Running!