Me and my fiancé are both gym members – I joined in the winter of last year to lose weight and he joined in February because he wanted to use the weights, but we also had a 100km running challenge to complete in March, and we decided that the treadmill might help us reach our goal as we wouldn’t have to run in the cold, dark or rain. For me, the treadmill isn’t an issue, and to a certain extent, I find it beneficial as I will discuss below. For my fiancé, however, it’s the opposite, and he hates it; he did admit that it was part of his 100km in March success, but now that challenge is over, he has barely used the treadmill. So why do I think the treadmill has its advantages?
- Indoors – there are some days that I can’t find the motivation to get dressed to go out running in the wind, rain, snow or dark, but can manage to get dressed to go to the warm gym because it doesn’t seem like such a daunting concept in comparison. I also don’t feel comfortable running alone when it gets dark, so if I don’t have a running partner available, I prefer going to the gym and using the treadmill.
- Pace – the one thing I love about the treadmill is the ability for me to set a steady pace and hold it. Often, when I run outdoors I tend to unintentionally run too fast and just can’t seem to run at a steady pace which affects my training times and my non-stop running performance (I can’t run as long non-stop when I pick up my pace). I find that if I set the treadmill to the pace I want, hide all of the data and just run, I can run for longer than outdoors. I always set the treadmill to at least 1% incline to try and mimic the roads outdoors.
- Variation – it’s easy to mix things up on the treadmill. You can adjust the incline to simulate hill training, adjust pace for intervals, or set a steady pace. There are also a lot of pre-programmed modes on the treadmills at my gym, so I can use one of those if I want to mix it up a bit more. Running outdoors requires more motivation as you have to push yourself to speed up, or find a location with a hill for hill training, whereas on the treadmill, you can set it to automatically speed up so that you just have to keep up.
- Catch-up TV – treadmill running is a great time to catch up on any TV that you’ve missed and wouldn’t otherwise be able to find time for. This way you don’t have to sacrifice your running or your TV time.
- Monitor Progress – as the treadmill keeps track of your distance, time, calories burned and other stats, it’s easy to measure your progress without the need of a smartphone with an app or a GPS watch. Just make sure the treadmill is calibrated, or to use the same treadmill each time for more accurate results. Alternatively, if you are using a GPS watch, it may be worth investing in a foot pod for more accurate indoor data (more on this in a later post).
This doesn’t mean that the treadmill is perfect, so let’s take a look at some of the negatives when compared to running outdoors:
- Heat – yes, I know that I said I enjoy running on the treadmill to stay warm, but that doesn’t mean I want to hyperventilate! My gym doesn’t have the best air conditioning, and more often than not the air blowers on the treadmills don’t work properly. I do find that I get a lot hotter in the gym, which also increases my heart rate and makes my effort level increase. But hey, at least I avoid the wind, rain and snow, right?
- Boredom – treadmill running can be pretty boring. My fiancé can’t run on the treadmill without music or watching the TV, but even then he finds it tedious. I tend to run with only the gym background music for company (mainly because I am yet to find comfortable non-in ear earphones which don’t fall out whilst running and are suitable for spectacle wearers without breaking the bank). It can be difficult to beat treadmill boredom and that is something that I will touch on in another post.
- Agility – running outdoors often means running on uneven surfaces or half on pavement, half on grass, or adjusting your stride quickly to avoid something on the floor. This is something that the treadmill can’t replicate and is often why people find it harder to run outside; hence it’s important to mix up your running to include some outdoor work, especially if you are training for an event.
- Stride – due to running in a confined area on the treadmill, you may find that you inadvertently adjust your stride or running form which could result in injury. It’s important not to cling to the front of the treadmill when running, but to allow yourself some space in the middle of the belt to ensure that your form is not altered.
- Cost – gym memberships can be pricey, and a home treadmill isn’t cheap either, so it all adds to the cost when compared to the option of running outdoors for free. Even if you make the initial purchase, you still have to pay electricity to use the device.
As you can see, there are pros and cons when it comes to treadmill training, but the important thing is to find a schedule that you enjoy and mix it up – if you are always running indoors, then you may want to add an outdoor session once every week or two to ensure that you get the benefits from outdoor running.
Let me know whether you’re a treadmill lover or hater in the comments below!