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April 8, 2013 at 1:46 PMComments: 0 Faves: 0

Burning Rubber: Treadmill Running

By Jeff from SLN More Blogs by This AuthorFrom the Running with Sole Blog Series

It seems that with every technological step forward, naysayers are ready to pounce. No matter if there are cell phones with Netflix or hybrid cars that run on gas/electric, people want to know the cost. We all know them - “old fogies,” “financial planners,” “journalists,” “my parents” – and we often find that there is some merit to their stubbornness.

So how does this relate to running? Well, if you read the title, you know. Treadmills have progressed a great deal since their introduction on the market. I remember trying to run on one as a kid at a neighbor’s house - the belt wasn’t motorized. That’s right, the belt only told you how fast you pushed it with your feet. I’m fairly certain those aren’t so popular anymore. These days they not only go to different speeds but they can often tilt 10° or even decline a little. Depending how much you want to spend, you can get a treadmill programmed with workout routines, a small fan built-in, cup holders, or a computerized voice that inflates your self-esteem with compliments.

What else can the treadmill do?

Aside from playing with all the features, you can actually run on a treadmill. But let’s be honest, the reason treadmills are getting more advanced than my car is for the same reason the treadmill itself was created: convenience.

You can use a treadmill indoors at your leisure. Simply having it located in your home or gym makes it safer because there’s no need to worry how far away you are from your home or car, or the time of day you decide to run. Now any time is running time!

Don’t forget about the weather either. Now that you’re protected from the elements, ice or rusty nails are a worry of the past. It could literally rain cats and dogs – and I mean “literally” in a literal sense – and you’d be running safe and sound under a roof and reading how many calories you’ve burned.

Sure it’s convenient, but how is it for my workout?

Good question. The answer partly depends on what you’re looking for. Are you running because you want to burn calories or because you want to be a better runner?

If you’re just looking to burn some calories and get in shape, fine. It pains me to say it, so I’ll let Rick Morris of the Running Planet website say it instead, “For fitness, health and weight loss purposes, there are really no disadvantages to treadmill training. A calorie burned on a treadmill is the same as a calorie burned during any other activity.” Don’t forget that it’s easier to see your burned calories, speed, or distance traveled when it’s on the display in front of you.

It may be a good option for people prone to injury as well. Though some treadmills are made to mimic the hard surface of asphalt, most have cushion to the platform and may also have additional suspension. So check with the sales rep/gym clerk to get an idea of the features in the treadmill you’ll potentially use. Also, the moving belt helps facilitate leg turnover, making it easier to run faster. It’s simply in the nature of the beast.

Are there any disadvantages to a treadmill?

Of course! Did you think I wrote that introduction for nothing?

Running on a treadmill may give you a similar feeling and mindset compared to running outdoors, but it just isn’t the same. Don’t expect to run at the same pace outside that you run on “the mill.” Once you go outside, you are reintroduced to your old friend Mr. Wind. In fact, Rick Morris also claims that the wind will make you work 2%-10% harder for your distance. And remember, the faster you run, the more resistance you’ll encounter.

Keep an eye on the road too. Without that even surface you might be used to, running around town may turn into a steeplechase. Beware those cracks and potholes.

There are also some oddities about with how the body responds to a treadmill. A study mentioned on the Running Planet website asserts that stride is affected. Seasoned runners outdoor runners tended to increase their stride, but new runners’ strides tended to decrease in length.

There have also been reports that a runner’s feet tend to stay in contact with the treadmill surface longer, revealing a possible inefficiency. These results may not carry over to the street for someone who just uses a treadmill for a workout or two, but when used on a regular basis the body tends to adapt and would likely continue these patters off the treadmill over time.

What’s the best option?

I know you may be skeptical about the outdoors after all that, just realize that a treadmill won’t fully prepare you to run the same way outside. However, it’s a viable option. A treadmill could be great for a high-pace interval workout, and there may even be a setting.

The choice is up to you! That is unless you’re Amish, then the choice may be made up for you already.

References:

Morris, Rick. "Pros and Cons of Treadmill Running." RunningPanet.com. Running Planet, n.d. Web. 02 Apr. 2013.

Paul, Susan. "How Effective Is Treadmill Running Compared to Running Outside?" Runner's World. Rodale Inc., 25 Sept. 2009. Web. 02 Apr. 2013.

Walters, Jennipher. "Are You Cheating Yourself by Choosing the Treadmill?" SparkPeople. Ed. Jen Mueller. SparkPeople, Inc., n.d. Web. 02 Apr. 2013.

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