Things I’m Lovin’ Thursday ~ 2/23/2012

Today I’m switching things up and doing my Things I’m Lovin’ Thursday a little differently. I decided that instead of posting about something that I’m currently loving, I’m going to post about something that I have mixed feelings about. It’s always more interesting to talk about controversial topics anyway :P

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I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with the dreadmill treadmill. While I appreciate it’s usefulness, I find running in place to be so boring. I sometimes even feel like a hamster running on a wheel.

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Plus (and maybe more importantly), I also think that I stride differently when I run on a treadmill. My step seems longer and I feel bouncy. It’s totally different from running on the pavement and my constant fear is that the difference in my stride will eventually lead to an injury

As a result, I try to run on the treadmill as little as possible. I mean who wants to get injured right?

Recently I started to wonder if my concerns were justified. Do runners stride differently outdoors vs. indoors? Is training on a treadmill equivalent to training outside?

I did some research on the topic and here’s what I found:

  • Running on the treadmill offers similar fitness and caloric benefits to running outside but it differs in that you don’t have to deal with wind resistance or uneven surfaces. The result is slightly easier running conditions (approximately 2-10% less workload). You can overcome this by setting the treadmill to an elevation level of 1 or 1% (source).
  • Runners often let the treadmill change their stride to a more upright, bouncy form with a shorter, less powerful stride. Other runners may lean too far forward when on a treadmill in order to “keep up with the belt”. Both of these alterations are detrimental to running form and may increase risk of injury (source).
  • The most common problem associated with treadmill running is the tendency of the moving belt to “grab” your feet and pull them back under your body. This can result in a stumbling, shuffling stride that places excessive stress on your knees, hips and back. To avoid this quickly lift your feet off the belt,  your goal is to of have a quick, compact stride (source).
  • Running outside gives you greater variability and challenge because of the different terrains, but running on cement can be risky when it’s wet or icy outside and cement sidewalks can be jarring on your knees and ankle joints (source).
  • Treadmill runs are less difficult than outdoor runs because they require less muscle fibers, coordination, and balance and the treadmill belt actually propels you slightly forward so you do less work (source).
  • When you are training for an outdoor event, it is advised that you do at least 60% of your training outside so that your body is prepared for both the extra demand of running outdoors as well as running in different weather conditions (source).
  • Benefits of treadmill running include: no weather or terrain issues, can stop whenever you want, can workout and watch t.v., a smooth and cushioned surface that is better on the joints, and no concerns about personal safety (source).

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I also came across a great article from Runner’s World called The Upside of Running on a Treadmill that listed 9 reasons to embrace running on a treadmill:

1 It’s the only way to do a tempo run on a cold, sleety morning without cursing your existence.
2 No need to obsess over your mile splits since the belt demands an even pace.
3 Get your legs used to Boston’s hills even if you’re in Boise.
4 No more rushing out the door to squeeze in a run while there’s still daylight.
5 Less layering, less shivering, and less laundry to do.
6 You don’t have to shove 45 pounds of child and jog stroller up a hill in front of you.
7 You can do hill repeats without having to find steep grades—or pound down them.
8 A cushioned treadmill belt is more inviting when coming back from an injury.
9 You feel less guilty watching Gossip Girl when you’re running.

So after reading all of this information, I have to say that my perception of treadmills has changed a bit. I definitely now can see some of the benefits of the dreadmill and understand why many people prefer the treadmill to running outside.

Does this mean my personal feelings for running on the treadmill have changed? Probably not, but at least now I’m informed about the benefits and risks of running on one :)

So how about you, treadmills: love them or hate them?