My husband gave me a treadmill for Christmas! After talking to my kids about a “light” Christmas this year due to the economy, etc., I came home on the 23rd to a treadmill gracing our bedroom with a large red bow on top! So much for the light Christmas! I have never owned a treadmill, and frankly, rarely run on one before. I have had my “tried and true” Lifecycle for twenty years, and never really thought about owning a treadmill. So it is a bit of a paradigm shift as I consider when I will use this new machine (my husband is still waiting for me to go for a run on it since he and the boys painstakingly got it up the stairs five days ago). Actually, as a mom of nine, I certainly can think of multiple reasons to have a treadmill, the number one reason being convenience.
The biggest reason people say they like a treadmill is the consistency of it. If you have one at home or use one at the gym, you don’t have to worry about variables like the weather. Some runners say that the treadmill belt assists leg turnover, making it easier to run faster, but many runners find that their pace on the treadmill doesn’t correlate to their road pace. In other words, they can go a little faster on the treadmill than they can on the road over longer distances. Also, some of the soft tissue conditioning or “hardening” that occurs with road running does not occur with treadmill running because the plate or base on the treadmill “gives” more than road surfaces. As one who battles hamstring pain, I am hoping that the treadmill will be easier on this part of my legs.
Another reason many enjoy the treadmill is because it enables a runner to set a pace and to maintain it. This is useful if we are training for a specific event. On a treadmill we have to make a conscious decision and press a button to slow ourselves down, whereas outside we might reduce our pace in response to fatigue without even realizing it. I am looking forward to using the programs offered on my new treadmill. The programs I can choose from are manual, hill, interval training, and 5K race. I must confess that I have poo-pooed treadmill running in the past as not a “pure” form of running. When I think of this now, I laugh since I know that treadmill running is certainly better than no running. However, I am now starting to actually look forward to this new kind of running, especially with the choice of programs. I think it will make my running a little more interesting. And frankly, since I will likely use the treadmill at lunch time or in the afternoon when #9 is napping, it will actually motivate me to have a challenge or goal that using the programs will provide.
Although there are many different opinions on the merits of running on roads versus a treadmill, there is a general consensus amongst fitness professionals that more calories are burnt running outside than on a treadmill. The number of calories you burn when exercising is determined by the intensity of your workout and therefore the rate of oxygen that you consume. It is easier to cover distance on a treadmill than over ground; therefore, road running will require a greater rate of oxygen consumption and burn more calories. However, I again have to laugh a little as I think about this, because the fact is, a run on the treadmill for me will mean running instead of not running at all…and that is certainly going to burn more calories!!
One temptation that many people have when using the treadmill, is to hold on to the machine while running. This affects cadence, form, and lessens the leg muscles’ function. If holding the hand rails proves necessary during any stage of the run, then the speed of the belt probably needs to be decreased. Rather than holding on, we should simply drop our hands and slow the pace down until we no longer feel the need to hold on. There are a few other reasons that treadmill running can be marginally less challenging than running outside: the real world isn’t as flat or as straight as a treadmil, when we run outside we move forward and have to combat wind resistance, and the rearward motion of the treadmill belt assists us with rhythm and stride pattern, reducing the requirement to drive our weight forwards to cover ground. However, in the end, there is not a huge difference between treadmill and road miles in terms of the way it works our muscles–the main reason to choose one over the other is preference and convenience. During cold months or bad weather, it can be great to have access to a treadmill to log miles. Treadmills also allow us to stop if something starts to hurt, to go to the bathroom, get food and water, or talk to others (like our kids) during a run. Treadmills are not cheap. Good ones can run from $1,000 to almost $6,000. My husband gave me the Precor 9.23, which is similar to the models at our local YMCA, except the home machine is narrower.
I love running outside. There is a lot to see and my mind easily shifts from one thought to another as the scenery changes during the run. This will probably be my biggest obstacle when running on the treadmill. I’m sure I won’t be able to read while I run, and watching T.V. is not one of my favorite things to do, so I may be a little bored, at least at first while running on “the mill” as die-hard outside runners call it. Truthfully, I am excited about the new treadmill, and I am hoping that it might be a key for me to avoid injuries as I continue running as I get older.
Do you run on a treadmill? What are your reasons for choosing it over running outdoors? What are some ways that you fight the boredom of running on the treadmill?