For a long time I didn’t really think of running on a treadmill as being worth it and thought it was only good for a warm up in the gym. However, over time I have changed my opinion on them and have coached more and more people who use them for a big chunk of their winter training and find it very effective.
Sometimes running on a treadmill can be the only way to get your run in and some of the benefits that my athletes have mentioned to me are:
•Living remotely without any street lighting means that I can run at any time of day or night to keep up with my training plan
•Its easier when the weather is icy or raining really hard
•Easier on the joints
•Easier for hill training
•I can run, step off for a drink or the toilet easily and I’m only 2 mins from a shower
•Because I am at home I have no travel time to a gym or a running route, perfect for a busy Dad!
•If I get injured help is close by, I can safely run at night, no traffic risk, the treadmill surface reduces injury risk
•I can be sure of a controlled speed / incline and can challenge myself by increasing the speed / incline quantifiably
•I don’t have to carry anything for long runs
•I can have music without headphones
•Because of all of these positive aspects, there are fewer mental barriers to running, which is probably the biggest overall benefit for me
However, here are some of the negatives of running on a treadmill:
•It can be boring/time passes slower. No changing scenery to distract you. You don’t have the companionship/camaraderie of a group long run.
•Exact pace can be confusing to understand. Treadmill inaccuracy can be as much as 5-10%
•The treadmill deck is bouncy which does not replicate a road, so training for a marathon requires a transitional period to road running
•Treadmill running feels harder for some reason that I do not know - I suspect that this is because the treadmill stays at the same pace yet with outside running I naturally vary my pace a little, therefore allowing my body to rest for very small periods, even just slightly
•You get no benefits from the downhills, because there are none
•Its not as relaxing as running in the countryside, you don’t get the benefits of being out in the fresh air soaking up some vitamin D.
•Its difficult to get a precise pace without having GPS, even when you follow a conversion chart.
•The distance on my GPS/running watch, does not match the treadmill distance
Running on a treadmill can offer a great alternative for your training and some studies show that running on a treadmill can provide the same stress on your body as running outside can. The general guide for running on a running machine is to set the gradient to 1% to get the same benefit as running outside. Although if you do most of your miles on a treadmill you aren’t getting the mix of surfaces and like running outside if you arent mixing up the surfaces you run on, this can increase your risk of injury, especially if you are logging long miles on them.
My own problem with running machines is that they can be boring and I found that I cut my workouts short on them, although you don’t have to spend hours on the treadmill. If you run in the gym it’s probably not going to make you too popular hogging one of the running machines anyway.
So in order to combat the boredom, here are some of the things I do -
1.Have more of a structure to my workout so I wasn’t just plodding along at the same pace. I planned sessions like I would outside which included a warm up and cool down as well as more of a fartlek or interval based session to keep it interesting.
2.If you just want to log some miles then listening to a podcast helps as your mind can wander. Although I found that it wandered so much I completely missed a big chunk of the content in the podcast
3.If you are running in the gym then there is often a TV you can watch, although I found this is unconducive to a hard session and you may end up plodding.
4.Focus on your running technique and cadence and take it as an opportunity to really tune in to your running style. Get someone to video you running if you can as it’s easier to do when you’re on a treadmill.
5.Increase the incline and mix up the intensity in order to benefit from a hard workout that doesn’t need to last forever.
So although it wouldn’t be my first choice to run on a treadmill, if the weather, travel or family commitments, makes it difficult to get outside for a run, a treadmill is a great alternative for a quick training session.