Treadmills vs Stationary Bikes: Which is Best for Running Training?

February 10, 2023 8 min read

Treadmills or stationary bikes may be your first choice when you’re looking for at-home fitness equipment. This is because indoor smart trainers and treadmills can support your overall fitness. Our expert guide shows you how a bike trainer can be as beneficial for your running performance as treadmills.

Table of Contents:

Comparing Treadmills & Stationary Bikes

The key differences between a treadmill and a smart bike is clear: one is a bike, one is not. Though their design and how they are used differ, both can support your running performance and improve your overall fitness.

Stationary bikes - Stationary bikes or indoor bike trainers, are cycling machines which allow you to stay in one place as you pedal. As you would pedal a road bike in order to move a wheel, pedalling on a stationary bike moves a flywheel or direct drive trainer.

Smart bikes, like the Watbike Atom smart bike, are advanced versions of a stationary or static bike, equipped with technology which records the data of your ride and allows for interactive training.

Whilst the Wattbike Nucleus air bike uses air resistance to provide off-feet conditioning and support your running performance.

Treadmills - These provide the opportunity to walk or run in one place, on a moving platform driven by an electric motor. The belt moves to the rear, and so running or walking, depending on the pace of the belt, allows you to remain in the same spot.

6 Ways Smart Bikes Can Improve Your Running

Smart bikes aren’t just for cyclists. Many of the benefits of indoor cycling can be used to support your running training:

1. Providing an interactive workout

Stationary bikes, and smart bikes in particular, offer interactivity to support your training. The Wattbike Atom is compatible with a number of indoor cycling apps and some of these, such as Strava and TrainingPeaks, offer running training programmes too. Combining the real-road routes, shareability, and motivation from these apps with your smart bike is a great way to push yourself to complete your running targets.

2. Improving your endurance

When you train on a stationary bike rather than a treadmill, you improve your endurance and aerobic efficiency, both of which are essential for improving your ability to run over a long period of time or distance. This is because the stationary bike means you can complete longer cardiovascular workouts, because you’re not on your feet for the duration of the session. Therefore, you can increase your ability to sustain power over time.

3. Keeping you motivated

Running can feel monotonous, so introducing a different type of workout could help you stay in touch with your training. Switching an outdoor running session for a pedal on a stationary bike rather than the treadmill can provide a refreshed sense of motivation. That way, you can introduce cycling workouts to your training plan and unlock a new way to reach your potential.

4. Taking the load off

Using a smart bike for running training means you can improve your fitness without the impact that running has on your muscles and joints. This opportunity to take the load off your musculoskeletal system is known as off-feet conditioning.

5. Reducing your risk of injury

Providing you with low impact exercises means you improve your cardiovascular fitness, but the impact on your joints and muscles is lower. Therefore, you’ll be less likely to sustain an injury.

6. Providing a full body workout

Cycling doesn’t just workout your legs. You can still target your overall fitness to improve your running. Standing up as you cycle provides a total-body workout, which can help you gain muscle and exercise all aspects of your body.

Pros & Cons of Indoor Bikes

When it comes to your running performance, both treadmills and smart bikes can offer effective at-home workouts. Smart bikes, though, can offer you more insight into your performance and help you accomplish your goals:

Pros of Smart Bikes

  • Get started straight away- Whether you’re more experienced or a beginner to indoor cycling, you can begin using a smart bike. With minimal set-up required, you can begin using a smart bike for running performance to strengthen muscles, and find workouts to assist with weight loss.
  • Over 100 dedicated workouts in the Wattbike Hub - The Wattbike Hub cycling app offers over 100 dedicated workouts to support you in your training. With dedicated training plans, you can stay on target with every ride, and feel the benefit of having a virtual coach in your pocket!
  • Discover versatile workout intensity - You can’t directly compare the effectiveness of a workout on a smart bike vs a treadmill, because it depends on what type you complete. For example, a High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) workout will be more rigorous, and burn more calories than a low intensity session. Just as a longer run at a faster pace will burn more than a shorter, slower run. The benefit of the smart bike though, is that you can tailor your workout for every session, with the help of cycling apps.
  • Test your performance to stay on track - By completing performance tests on the Wattbike Atom you can stay up to date and know exactly how your training is going. You can work towards goals, then measure your FTP and complete indoor time trials to test your athletic performance.
  • Fit the Atom into your home with ease - Treadmills often take up a lot of space, whereas a smart bike like the Atom has a much smaller footprint. At just 124cm x 50cm footprint, it’s perfect for the home and smaller than a turbo trainer too. This means it can easily fit into a smaller living area, without the need for a specific home-gym set-up.

Potential Cons of a Stationary Bike

  • Compatible device needed - In order to see your performance on some indoor bikes, you’ll need to connect a compatible electronic smart device. You can connect via bluetooth, or using an ANT+ dongle. You’ll need this in order to see any cycling data recorded or connect to interactive features like apps.
  • You may be tempted to hunch over - If you find yourself hunching over the bike, effectively resting on the handlebars, you limit your workout to your lower body. Ensure you set up your indoor bike correctly to avoid this. Staying upright on the smart bike means you engage your abdominal and back muscles. It is possible to get a full body workout with a smart bike, but you do have to remain conscious of your posture and position on the bike.
  • They don’t replicate running - If you’re a runner wanting to replicate the feeling of an outdoor jog then a smart bike won’t provide that. You still see fitness gains and can workout specific areas required for running, e.g. legs, aerobic efficiency and improve your VO2 max, but it won’t be the exact same as running outdoors or on a treadmill.

Pros & Cons of Treadmills

Treadmills may be the first thing you think of to improve your running and see the benefits of running from your own home. However, there are both advantages and disadvantages to treadmills that are worth considering before you purchase:

Where a Treadmill Can’t Compare to a Smart Bike

  • They can be hard on your joints - Running can be tough on your joints, especially if you haven’t run in a long time. Therefore, using a treadmill to support your running performance, or as your cardio, can lead to sore muscles and tired joints, whereas a benefit of indoor cycling is that it provides the chance to workout while minimising the load on your musculoskeletal system.
  • They are bulky and take up a lot of space - Treadmills are often bulky and take up a lot of space, meaning they are a hindrance unless you have a spacious at-home gym set-up. This is where a smart bike comes in handy, as they typically have a smaller footprint, and can be a convenient addition to a household.
  • They offer limited interactivity - A treadmill may not offer the interactivity, motivation, and dedicated workouts that Wattbike can. Whether choosing a treadmill or a stationary bike, consider what will provide the most support to your training.
  • Exercising on a treadmill can be monotonous - Running indoors, without the outdoor scenery to keep you entertained can be tedious. You may find you’re sick of staring at the same wall, wishing the time away, or even shortening your runs. Due to their limited interactivity and lack of scenery, you may prefer to opt for a smart bike and the interactive app compatibility that can help you stay focused and enjoy your exercise.

Potential Treadmill Pros

  • You can alter the incline - Some treadmills allow you to alter the inclination of the equipment, which provides an effective method to support weight loss and improve fitness. Whilst changing the incline would not have the same effect on a smart bike, you can increase the electromagnetic or air resistance in order to increase how hard you have to pedal.
  • They offer versatile workouts - Thanks to the fact that you can opt to walk, run, or sprint on treadmills, you have a significant control over how you exercise. If you’re in a recovery period, or need a lighter session, you can opt to walk. If you’re ramping up the pace of your training, you can choose to sprint or run at a higher incline for a more intense workout.

Factors to Consider When Choosing Between Treadmills vs a Smart Bike

When you’re choosing between a treadmill and an indoor smart bike, you should consider all of the reasons for your investment. Ranging from your performance targets to your space constraints, here’s an overview of what you should consider:

  1. Price - Whilst these can vary, the overall price you’re looking at may be similar depending on what level of technology you want from your indoor training equipment. Where a cheaper option for either a treadmill or a smart bike may be available, you may find their capability limits you, and you’ll end up upgrading later down the line. Plus, the Wattbike Atom is available on indoor bike finance to help you.
  2. Training programme - If you want to add versatility to your exercise programme, then a smart bike means your indoor workouts aren’t simply a recreation of your outdoor running. Instead, they provide a new way to train, to keep you motivated to stick to your exercise.
  3. Interactivity - If you want to share your progress, explore real-world routes virtually, and interact with your workout data then a smart bike offers a wide range of options to choose from, from training apps to connecting to a heart rate monitor.
  4. Space - If you aren’t blessed to have a large indoor gym set-up, then opt for a smart bike. With a smaller footprint, you may find these more convenient to introduce into your living space without being too bulky.
  5. Personal preference - Remember, what matters most is choosing what equipment you will actually use. If you’re more likely to exercise on an indoor bike, then opt for the smart bike. If you think you’d most frequently gravitate towards the treadmill, then that’s the choice you should make.

Improve Performance with Wattbike

We’re passionate about providing an all-round training experience for cyclists, runners, and more. From advice on what to eat after cycling, to the best workouts to train for sportives, you’ll find it with Wattbike.

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