Friday, February 8, 2013

Treadmill Running: The Good & Bad


45-Minute Treadmill Interval Workout to Fight Belly Fat
Last week I was part of a Facebook discussion with running friends and treadmills and long runs was the topic, the occurrence of injury from treadmill training was brought up so I started thinking about this as well as other aspects of that contraption we runners have a love hate relationship with. I have been known to run a few 20 milers on the treadmill during winter training due to blizzard conditions and lack of other run options. This is the toughest mental run but is a great way to get in marathon pace running. I also relied heavily on the treadmill for naptime workouts but would have taken outside over this any day.

We evolved as runners for our survival and immediate gratification, our minds don’t deal well with this lack of change and waiting months to reach a goal. While at the same time we often tune out during a treadmill run not paying attention to our body and rely on outside distractions. According the evolutionary psychology the key to better treadmill running is mindfulness, how is our breathing? foot strike? Arm tension? Runner’s World has a great article How to Make the Treadmill Fun 

Although this doesn’t address the issue of injury just the mental side of treadmill running.
Have you ever actually through about how the treadmill works? Pushing your legs back and decreasing active motion leading to passive hip extension (Source). This decrease in active motion may be the reason Reynolds (2010) concluded that treadmills are not the answer to high speed training. With this said Taunton (2003) found no increase in treadmill injuries over runners outside. The unanswered question that many are wondering: are runner more susceptible to hamstring injury when transitioning from treadmills to outdoor running? There is no literature to support either side of this, but personally I wonder if my high amount of treadmill miles was a contributing factor in my hamstring issues over the past 2 years.

The other side of treadmill running is the lack of change, many runners set a speed and incline and go, tune out the world and run. We run in a straight line with no need to turn or change direction, how many outdoor runs are like this? We all see this at the gym that person hanging on with a death grip, never changing speed, incline and keeping this the same every run. The key to successful treadmill running is change, not only does this better simulate outdoor running but also keeps things mentally engaging. Play with speed and incline and remember that 1.0% incline is the best equivalent to outdoor running.

With all this said I think treadmills are a necessary part of running for most of us. There are days when we have no other options and a treadmill is the only answer. With our brutal winter it has gotten me through many runs and as a mom is sometimes the only answer. It is my goal to avoid long treadmill runs but if nothing else can be done I try to make it a marathon pace run instead of an easy run.

Grab a friend, be mindful of your body and hit the treadmill on a cold day. Challenge each other to and work together to have a great workout. Make it fun and take turns deciding the speed and incline changes to make.  

How do you get through treadmill runs? Do you love or hate the treadmill? 

18 comments:

  1. In order to get through a treadmill run, I have to change the speed or incline and vary my workout. Otherwise I have a hard time mentally. The treadmill can be fun if you switch things up a bit. Otherwise it can be serious torture. I don't know how you lasted 20 miles on one. You are hard core!

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    1. I'm not sure how I lasted 20 miles either! I hope to never do it again.

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  2. I'm quite impressed, several 20 milers on the treadmill? WOW! I have a love hate relationship with my treadmill:) Love it because on deep snow days I can get a run in, hate because its boring, and I find (for me) it doesn't do much to keep my lungs in shape for outdoor racing. Once forced due to the weather had a long run on a treadmill of 18 miles, I didn't enjoy it much, which is why I am so impressed with you! If on the treadmill, I catch up on TV shows or pop in a great movie, I'll mess with the inclines and speeds as well to mix it up.

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    1. Last time it was Reality Bites that got me through a long TM run!

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  3. My doctor just told me to get a treadmill... My left knee has been bugging me off/on for almost 3 years now and yesterday she officially diagnosed patella femoral syndrome (a fancy name for runners knee). She said if I'm going to insist on running 16 half's this year I should be doing at least my shorter runs on the treadmill. Ughh after all the posts I've read about the "dread mill" I'm really dreading it...

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    1. Take it easy and work on strengthening the knee, the treadmill won't fix it but strengthening can :)

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  4. Right now I'm only running on the treadmill. It's just more comfortable for me. I think running outside is so hard and I get distracted looking around. I am going to give it another go this Spring and see if I can like the great outdoors.

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  5. I have a love/hate relationship with the treadmill. I'm totally fine with it up to 6 miles, but over that and it gets really rough. It's been a godsend on the really cold days though. I should definitely try doing to the TM with a partner! Great thinking!

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    1. 1 hour is my sanity limit but it is a great tool on snowy days.

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  6. I tolerate the treadmill. I much rather be outside but like you said, snow, super dark mornings without a running buddy, child care - all reasons I hit the treadmill. I like to think that the treadmill brings "mental toughness" to training. :)

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    1. Very true, the treadmill reinforces the mental side of training.

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  7. I wrote about my tridmill survival here. Thanks for stopping by the other day. -Caroline
    http://www.iheartrunning.com/2012/12/treadmill-run-due-to-winter-storm-euclid.html

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  8. My preference is to run outside but when a treadmill is my only option I love intervals. Adjusting the speed and incline throughout a run is a great workout and helps with not getting bored.

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    1. Intervals are the best way to mentally push through, I think it breaks it down to smaller pieces.

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  9. Really interesting - I haven't seen any other bloggers tackle this particular aspect of treadmill running, and I think it's important. My chiro claims that treadmill running uses different muscles and weakens the ones I need for the road through under-use. If I did a lot of treadmill running, he'll ask if I've been taking a break.

    Curious! Definitely a great machine in a pinch though.

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    1. It is a great tool when needed but I think it is true it uses or at least emphasizes different muscles and is important to get outside too

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