The Treadmill: friend or foe?

1 Oct

The Treadmill: friend or foe?

With the snow turning to slush, and the possibility of muddy fields and waterlogged run routes on the horizon, is the treadmill a viable option to turn to over the next few weeks?

Apart from having to overcome the boredom of running on the spot and a never changing scenery, I find an even bigger problem is that by not moving there is no airflow to moderate my core temperature. In short unless I put a fan in front of me, I heat up too much to enjoy running indoors.

This lack of airflow is a bigger problem than you may realise. As you heat up, you need more blood pushed near the surface of your skin to cool you down. This will then put pressure on the heart, forcing it to beat faster as your leg muscles demand more oxygen. The end result is that your heart rate is higher than it should be at any set speed, which may trick you into thinking you are training more effectively than you are. Or you may worry because your heart rate is higher than usual.

Another problem distorting training, is because it is widely accepted that you need to put a treadmill on a 1 degree gradient to simulate running outdoors. This is because you are not moving anywhere  and so not creating any drag, thus running is easier.

Actually I have also discovered another flaw with the treadmill. It is very easy to get fluctuations in your training depending on how you run.

Because the treadmill is moving and you are not; all the runner has to do is bring their legs back to the start. In order to cope with higher speeds, I have discovered it is easier if I take long bounding strides.  This maximizes my time in the air, and so I am able to cope with the treadmill turning at a higher speed. If I take shorter strides, I struggle more as I have more contact time with the treadmill and so get pushed back further.

Problems aside, I do think it has a place in your training. It is very good for practicing leg speed, and put on a gradient it can also offer very good simulated hill running.

I tend to use it for doing short fast sprints, for leg speed and also on a 6-10% gradient I use it for hill training. I can run 20 minute hill reps on the treadmill! But I do not have any hills of that length near my house!

My two favourite sessions are:

1.  10 x 10 seconds sprinting, with 2 minutes easy running between


2 . 6 x 5 minute hill reps with 3 minutes easy running for recovery

Training indoors is very convenient during times of inclement weather, and also if you need to do a hard workout on a dark winters night. However be warned the treadmill is not without its dangers, I have seen people spat off the end them , as they struggle to run at the same pace as their ego!

As with all training, the treadmill has its place, in a balanced programme, but given a choice I would rather be out in the fresh air every time.